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“Beijing’s aggressiveness makes clear that the regime sees TikTok as an extension of the party-state, and the U.S. needs to treat it that way," Rubio said in a statement. “We must also establish a framework of standards that must be met before a high-risk, foreign-based app is allowed to operate on American telecommunications networks and devices."
What’s going on?
- TikTok, the most downloaded app in the United States, is owned by ByteDance Ltd., a Chinese tech giant.
- As you can imagine, some senators aren’t exactly excited about these new changes, and they let the company know about their disappointment in a letter addressed to TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew.
Why are senators trying to ban TikTok?
- According to a letter written by Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and Republican Senator John Thune, “the updated policy appears to enable TikTok to automatically collect biometric data, including certain physical and behavioral characteristics from video content posted by its users.”
- The letter was written to TikTok’s Chief Executive Officer Shou Zi Chew, where they included questions asking for a clear definition of a “faceprint" and a “voiceprint" meant and whether the data would be shared with third parties.
- The lawmakers also wrote in the letter a question about whether or not the app collects data on users under the age of 18.
- Marco Rubio, a Republican senator and former presidential candidate, also criticized TikTok while taking the opportunity to accuse China of foul practices against the US.
- “Beijing’s aggressiveness makes clear that the regime sees TikTok as an extension of the party-state, and the U.S. needs to treat it that way," Rubio said in a statement. “We must also establish a framework of standards that must be met before a high-risk, foreign-based app is allowed to operate on American telecommunications networks and devices."
How is this different from the Trump ban?
- It’s actually not too different from that 2019 ban that Trump established because both cases are concerns over data.
- TikTok was fined nearly US$6 million by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for taking advantage of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act., which requires apps to receive parental permission before collecting a minor’s data.
- After the FTC fined TikTok, the Trump administration tried to put TikTok out of business in the US, but this was eventually blocked by federal courts.
- Originally, the Biden administration didn’t try to stop the TikTok ban after becoming president, but the push to ban the app was abandoned back in June.
- But, even though the Biden administration stepped away from banning the app, they did order the Commerce Department to monitor software applications like TikTok that could affect US national security.
How is TikTok responding?
- These allegations and concerns from these senators surfaced after corporate records showed that the Chinese government took a stake and a board seat in a ByteDance entity back in April of this year.
- But, according to the company, the 1% stake in Beijing ByteDance Technology that the government currently holds doesn’t actually give the Chinese government any share in TikTok, because there is a difference between TikTok and Douyin – China’s TikTok equivalent.
- Roland Cloutier, TikTok’s global chief security officer, offered a statement guaranteeing that the US has nothing to worry about regarding the company providing sensitive data to the Chinese government.
- “To date, there has never been a request from the Chinese government for TikTok user data," said Cloutier in a sworn statement. “And we would not provide any data if we did receive such a request."
- Company officials also say that American user data is not stored in China, and Beijing-based ByteDance employees do not have access to US user data.
So, is TikTok getting banned?
- Well, the Commerce Department was asked by the Biden administration to make recommendations within 120 days of the original call back in June to stop the ban.
- So, what that means is that the government should be making recommendations in the next few weeks regarding where TikTok stands in terms of privacy.
- Even though there are several senators complaining about the recent privacy issues with TikTok, the company has said that they’ve been complying with several different government entities since 2019’s initial concerns were raised.
- TikTok is also still negotiating with the US Committee on Foreign Investment to address security concerns surrounding the data of US users.
- And, despite these senators calling on President Joe Biden to comment on the situation, he has yet to make a public statement on the matter.
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