Use of the popular TikTok mobile app is prohibited for UK government officials and members of the New Zealand Parliament. The restriction, announced Thursday (16), is a national security precaution that has also been taken in other institutions.
In recent weeks, the United States, the European Union, Canada and Belgium have announced restrictions on the use of TikTok in some of their public institutions due to the risk that information from users of the app will be shared with the Chinese government. .
China has denied access to Tiktok’s classified information and has accused the US government of launching “unprovoked attacks” on the Chinese company. However, every day more countries are introducing limits to the app which has more than 1 billion users around the world.
How do governments explain the restrictions on TikTok?
In February, when requiring all of its more than 30,000 employees to uninstall the app, the European Commission confirmed that the decision was motivated by cybersecurity risks.
Business Commissioner Thierry Breton explained, at the time: “The European Commission has, since the beginning of its mandate, emphasized cyber security and the protection of its staff and of all those working in the enterprise.”
Breton did not specify the risks the commission saw in the request. However, the entire discussion is about user data collected by the app, which belongs to Chinese technology group ByteDance.
Through the use of the social network, Tiktok collects a series of information about each user, their preferences, contacts, and topics of interest. There is a suspicion that this information could be shared with the Chinese government.
When collecting information, the application must ensure data security to preserve the privacy of each user, which is a human right, recalls the Secretary General of the National Digital Council of France, Jean Catan.
But for government officials or politicians, sharing information with another government, such as a user’s location or topics of interest and conversation, can jeopardize national security issues, Kattan says.
And this is a point that concerns several countries, as made by Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo.
In early March, when Belgium decided to ban the app among its employees, De Croo said it could not have been “innocent,” and that TikTok was “obligated to cooperate with China’s secret information services.”
Are there known cases of espionage?
The US is investigating Bytedance, the owner of the Chinese app, for espionage. In November 2022, two company employees admitted to accessing information from US users without their consent, including two journalists, according to the US newspaper. The New York Times.
The employees had access to information such as those people’s IP addresses, their contacts, and other data. Subsequently, the company laid off these employees.
Bytedance claims it is making changes to enhance data security, and denies passing the information on to the Chinese government.
Despite a ban on the app being discussed in the US, China’s foreign ministry says there is no evidence of the charges.
“The United States has not yet presented any evidence that TikTok threatens the national security of the United States,” said Chinese spokesperson Wang Wenbin.
Is TikTok more dangerous than Facebook or Twitter?
According to experts, the lack of transparency in the use of critical information in the case of the Chinese application is also repeated with networks affiliated with American companies.
“Now we have to choose who is the ‘policeman’ who will monitor our citizens: the Chinese or the Americans. When people use Facebook, the US authorities have access to user data. When they use TikTok, they represent the Chinese authorities who may have access,” assesses the technology lawyer. Information Etienne Drouard.
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