TikTok is a social media platform, owned and operated by Chinese-based company, ByteDance, founded by 35-year-old Zhang Yiming, that allows its users to create and upload short videos to be shared across its platform. According to an estimate, by the app’s track sensor tower, it had been downloaded over 2 billion times since it was launched in China in 2016.
The app has come under increased scrutiny by legislators across the globe since exploding in popularity outside of China.
Although TikTok’s policies said the app collects user data such as IP address, location, and information about devices the app’s authorities have repeatedly asserted that it doesn’t work with China and denied the accusations of foreign influence.
Despite all the assurances coming from the app’s high profiles, secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, told Fox News that Trump’s administration is aware of the potential threat and “have been working on this issue for a long time.” “We are taking this very seriously and we are certainly looking at it,” said Pompeo. “With respect to Chinese apps on people’s phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right,” he added.
The US officials have long been skeptical about the entity’s policy of data handling, which has 175 million downloads of its app in the US and is becoming increasingly popular every day among the country’s youth. The app has faced similar allegations in the past too for being a threat to national cybersecurity. In December 2019, the US Navy urged its military personnel to remove the app on all government-issued smart devices. The agency had also urged them not to download the app on government-issued devices in the future as well.
In Australia too, Federal government MP George Christensen said TikTok, along with other Chinese apps, like Snapchat, must be banned. Earlier this year, an Australian news agency revealed that the application was prohibited on Australian defense devices, similar to a ban US military force.
With a reported 2-billion download globally, It has an estimated 1.6million Australian users with growing users every day
So, will the USA/Australia ban TikTok?
Possibly, but probably not in the immediate future. Concrete proof would have to emerge confirming the Government's suspicions, about TikTok posing threat to the cybersecurity, to consider moving to outright banning of the app. The Countries would also have to consider the foreign policy implications of making such a move, arguing that it could work against their interests by antagonizing Beijing, even more, can turn into adverse foreign relations.
However, the fact is, enforcing a country-wide blanket ban on TikTok isn’t a simple prospect. While the governments can still request the app’s removal from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Users would still be able to download the app from another region’s store, or via a third-party source. Also, banning the app doesn’t automatically remove it from the devices on which it has been already installed.
Even though TikTok is banned by blocking access to the app in concurrence with internet service providers, there are ample ways in which users can still access the app through proxies or virtual private networks (VPNs). Already handed over data can still pose a potential risk even if the app is banned.
In the immediate future though, the millions of TikTokians can continue using the app freely, singing and dancing away to their hearts' content. Whether they can do so without being skeptical about their data privacy... that's for them to decide.