TikTok: Real Threat or Victim of Overblown Geopolitics?
Country after country bans TikTok for national security reasons – is that really the problem?
USA , European Commission , Belgium and other countries have urged government officials to take down TikTok—and to do so as soon as possible. Countries that have banned the use of TikTok on government devices have cited non-specific security concerns. For its part, the app claims to have not been informed of the issue and claims to be just as puzzled as anyone else.
So is TikTok a major security issue that should be of concern to all of us? Or is there something more involved here, connected with geopolitics?
TikTok has over 1 billion users, including one in four in the UK and over 150 million in Europe. Therefore, any suggestion that the security of users’ personal data is at risk will cause enormous damage to TikTok’s reputation. India’s similar ban in June 2020 for geopolitical reasons instantly reduced the app’s audience by 200 million users from its total user base – the app managed to survive, but only because of its strong growth elsewhere.
As much as TikTok downplays its China ties by claiming that its parent company, ByteDance, is based offshore in the Cayman Islands and not in Beijing, there is an undeniable connection that cannot be ignored. The application was developed in China, and even if it is now becoming more localized, this connection cannot be ignored.
This slows down the development and growth of TikTok worldwide, because its links with China can become a weapon of China-skeptical politicians and be used against it in matters related to the transfer of user data to the Chinese government at the first request of Beijing.
TikTok denies that Beijing has ever asked the app to hand over user information and says it will refuse such a request. However, distrust of the app is growing, and skeptical governments are asking TikTok questions that the company finds difficult to answer.
So far, there is no evidence that TikTok is more dangerous for users than any other application, but this does not mean that such evidence will not appear in the future.