Rumors that the Trump administration would announce a ban on the popular social media platform TikTok surfaced over the weekend. Around the same time, software giant Microsoft announced they were in talks to acquire the United States rights to the application from parent company ByteDance.
Possible reasonings behind the ban can be traced back to America’s distrust in the Chinese Government. Which is not entirely unwarranted as just of July 2020, the United States ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston to close — an order that came to fruition due to blatant espionage happening between the consulate and American research facilities.
With TikTok being one of the largest social media platforms in the world, currently dragging in over 80 million users in the U.S. alone, it undoubtedly would be a great place to gather data about the American people. The suspicion that TikTok could be being used as a spying ground is not new. Earlier this year several U.S. Military branches had banned any usage of the application on military phones. The action occurred due to the increased chance of it being a cyber-security issue, which makes sense due to the severity of information possibly being stored on the devices.
Although, if TikTok poised such a security issue for a mere guess on their involvement in Chinese spying, why do they allow applications from companies that have leaked data on a larger scale, hell, why would they allow any apps to be installed?
This brings us to the question, who can we trust with our data?
I think we all can say with certainty that it’s not America’s corporations. Data breach after data breach has occurred with no insight from Congress to put actual punishments into place to discourage lousy data holding standards. In turn, this leads to the American people fighting their way through a class-action lawsuit, where lofty lawyers will earn 25%–33% of the total money awarded, and see very little of the money they deserve for their data.
For example, just this year Microsoft leaked 250 million private documents to the public, which means anyone could have access to files that contained private information. On top of this, the users affected were not entitled to receive any payment for Microsoft’s mistake.
While main concerns with TikTok stems from Chinese data interception, what our officials are failing to realize is fault in our very own county. With corporations leaking information to the public that they were entrusted with, how do we know they are working for us rather than themselves. Not to mention that we have our very own spying issue with the NSA having collections of direct messages, emails, and phone calls.
The problem doesn’t lie within China having our data as much as our country not having our data. It is past due to update data rights with the current status of the world. Companies should not be excused from having proper data protection for their users. It shouldn’t be their digression as much as their expectation.
Having our data stored locally in America is beneficial in preventing critical information from leaking to our enemies, but if we fail to reinforce the idea that data is someone’s possession it would have the same effect as America handing a different country the keys to the nuclear launch codes — disastrous.
TikTok’s possibility of being banned will set a precedent on how we share data. Most importantly is the implications that will stem from this period. They could be powerful enough to change the way we think of data in America and have new laws made for the benefit of the people. We can reach a time where corporations are trusted with our data, but as it stands right now — who’s to say they are better than China themselves.