Unless you have been living under a rock throughout this whole pandemic, you have probably come across the word TikTok more prevalently than before. 

While this app continues to accommodate various people from all over the world, TikTok’s video-sharing capabilities have increased over the last few months with many hoping onto it for its appealing and creativity purposes.

In the first quarter of 2020 alone, the app gathered over 300 million downloads on both the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. However, just like anything that causes a huge stir of “excitement” comes a wave of adversities. The app is currently facing some major predicaments.

TikTok is a subsidiary of ByteDance, a Chinese based company with its headquarters in Beijing. It will be important to note that Byte Dance, maybe the root of all TikTok’s current troubles.

However, TikTok has some of its headquarters in the United States, London in England and India. The company’s CEO is Kevin Mayer who is an American.

Kevin-Mayer-TikTok-CEO
TikTok CEO, Kevin Mayer. He was the former Head of Streaming at Disney

TikTok continues to boast of having various American employees in the US. Furthermore, this has been termed by some people as TikTok trying to save its image in the eyes of the American people.

China has several laws that pertain to technology firms such as ByteDance; one of the laws that is of great importance and is under a lot of scrutiny is the National Intelligence of 2017. Article 7 of this law states that,

“any organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work in accordance with the law,”

Due to the unfortunate events pertaining to this article, numerous companies such as Huawei and ZTE have had to lose major contracts in certain countries because of fear of national data falling in the hands of the Chinese government.

As a result of this law, Huawei has been put on the entity list in the United States. In short, this means that Huawei cannot conduct business with US-based companies.

So, why iTikTok banned in India?

The ban on TikTok came a few weeks after China and India had a border-dispute in June 2020. The clashes between the 2 countries left about 20 Indian soldiers dead. There are much broader reasons for this dispute, which you can read more about here.

According to major news outlets, the ban on TikTok and 58 other apps which are mostly of Chinese origin is tit-for-tat retaliation of the dispute. India lags in military and economic power which means that it had little options in terms of fighting back.

Several Chinese telecommunication and social networking companies were already in India with a large presence. This provided India with a way to hit China where it hurts. 

TikTok has a third of its global users in India. This means that the company’s revenue has been cut significantly following this ban. If the United States also follows through with their ban, it will hurt the company a lot more.

TikTok responded to the ban with a press statement that partly stated,

“… TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and has not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese Government.”

Furthermore, the statement goes on to say that the company would never provide data to the Chinese  government even if requested to do so.

It has been noted by different experts that it maybe impossible for Chinese companies to deny their home government access to data when requested. An article by CNBC stated that Huawei would not have a choice if it was approached by the government to hand over any 5G data.

China has however urged people “not to take anything out of context.”  A government spokesperson said that intelligence work should be conducted according to the law and in a way that respects and protects human rights.

Following the ban, several Indian content creators urged their followers to follow them on other platforms. Most of these creators had gathered a huge following and were earning from the app.

Why the US wants to follow

It is no secret that the US and China have their differences. As mentioned earlier, the US blocked Huawei from doing business with US companies over fears of National Security. This has caused the company a great deal of market share. Its smartphone line has since suffered, owing to the fact that they cannot add Google Play Services on their devices.

Huawei devices still run on Android because it is open source. However, by not being able to access Google Play Services outside of China means that their devices become a little harder to use for ordinary people. Most apps use Google services on the backend for them to function normally.

TikTok is facing the same risks as Huawei. According to Mike Pompeo, The United States Secretary of State does not recommend people download the app on their phones. 

“Only if you want your information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP]”
Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State, United States

The video below debunks this conversation.

Fox News reports that the Trump Administration wants to ban the app on grounds of it being a National Security Threat. TikTok did not support its case when it was caught grabbing contents of its iOS users through the clipboard. The app immediately provided a statement blaming the glitch on an older Google app which they use for advertisements.

TikTok having gained massive popularity in the United States goes hand in hand as various government institutions have been banned from having the app on their devices.

The US could have a hard time completely banning the app but there is another way they can reduce its appeal to Americans. By de-platforming it. If the app is not available on the Google or Apple App stores, it would make downloading it a hustle. 

Users would have to side-load it using alternative sources. It is relatively easy on Android but becomes a little harder on iOS. Either way, this method could significantly reduce TikTok’s appeal.

Should we care about TikTok Privacy concerns?

The short answer is yes. Privacy is increasing in importance in today’s connected world. You do not want everything about you on the internet. Especially if it is not out of your own will.

The long answer is maybe. TikTok requests for close to 60 permissions and 13 trackers on Android devices. We may not fully understand what all the permissions mean but most of them are useful for basic app functionality. You do not have to grant access to all of them.

Similarly, Facebook also requests for 62 permissions with 8 trackers; not as many as TikTok but still quite a huge number.

It is no secret that China has put a lot of funding in African countries to the extent of certain citizens claiming their governments of selling their countries to the Chinese. 

I do not think African governments have the mandate or the capability to ban these apps. There are a lot of more pressing issues African governments are trying to solve that are of greater importance.

Your privacy is up to you to think of.

Nonetheless, we have seen claims of targeted advertisement. The Cambridge Analytica scandal where the company mined Kenyan voters’ data to help President Uhuru Kenyatta win the elections.

Uganda is going to have elections next year. President Museveni dubbed them scientific elections. With the pandemic around, public campaigns are currently banned. 

This means most of the campaigning is going to be done on TVs, Radios, or Social Media. The impeding part is when privacy concerns arise.

Irrespective of the various apps that we may use on our phones, it is important to pay close attention to them on a daily basis. They may be good for us but we need to open our eyes and minds especially in a technologically advanced world that we are becoming.

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