After India Ban, Tiktok Being Questioned By Us Over User Data Tracking – CNBCTV18

After India Ban, Tiktok Being Questioned By Us Over User Data Tracking – CNBCTV18

Over two years after its ban in India, ByteDance-owned TikTok is being actively re-examined in the US with concerns relating to the amount of user data the app shares with China, where the company is headquartered. US Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative James Comer,  Republican on the Oversight Committee, wrote to TikTok to say the information provided in a staff briefing appeared to be inaccurate.
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“Some of the information TikTok provided during the staff briefing appears to be untrue or misleading, including that TikTok does not track US user locations,” the Republican lawmakers said in a letter to TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew dated Tuesday, November 22.
The Democratic Biden administration has also expressed concern about TikTok. FBI Director Christopher Wray said earlier this month that the Chinese government could harness the video-sharing app to influence users or control their devices.
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Among other questions, the lawmakers asked TikTok to provide drafts of any agreement being negotiated with the Biden administration to allow TikTok to remain active in the US.
The US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews US acquisitions by foreign companies for potential national security risks, in 2020 ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok because of fears that US user data could be passed on to China’s communist government.
This was in the same year that the Indian government banned several Chinese apps, including TikTok, in view of the available information that they were engaged in activities that are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order.”
In total, 220 Chinese apps, including well-known ones like TikTok, WeChat, PUBG Mobile, Shareit, UC Browser, AliSuppliers, Alibaba Workbench, AliExpress, Lalamove India, and CamCard, were banned by multiple orders issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY), Government of India, between June and December 2020.
CFIUS and TikTok have been in talks for months aiming to reach a national security agreement to protect the data of TikTok’s more than 100 million users.
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US President Joe Biden in June 2021 withdrew a series of Trump executive orders that sought to ban new downloads of TikTok and ordered the Commerce Department to conduct a review of security concerns posed by the apps.
Earlier this year, nonprofit Global Witness and the Cybersecurity for Democracy team at New York University published a report that tested whether some of the most popular social platforms — Facebook, YouTube and TikTok — can detect and take down false political ads targeted at US voters ahead of the midterm elections.
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The ads included misinformation about the voting process, such as when or how people can vote, as well as about how election results are counted. They were also designed to sow distrust about the democratic process by spreading baseless claims about the vote being “rigged” or decided before election day. All were submitted for approval to the social media platforms, but none were actually published.
Of all the platforms tested, TikTok, performed the worst, letting through 90 percent of the ads the group submitted. Jon Lloyd, Senior Advisor at Global Witness, said the results, in particular, were “a huge surprise to us” given that the platform has an outright ban on political advertising.
TikTok was also under the lens in the UK over a possible breach of data protection law by failing to protect children’s privacy when they are using the video-sharing platform.
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The UK Information Commissioner’s Office issued the social media company a legal document in September, that precedes a potential fine. It said TikTok may have processed the data of children under 13 without appropriate parental consent, and processed “special category data” without legal grounds to do so.
The commissioner said the “special category data” included ethnic and racial origin, political opinions, religious beliefs and sexual orientation.
The document also said TikTok may have failed to provide transparent, easily-understood information to its users. The legal document covered the period from May 2018 to July 2020.
Information Commissioner John Edwards said the body’s provisional view was that TikTok “fell short” of providing proper data privacy protections. The body said its findings are not final and that it will consider any representations from TikTok before making a final decision.
(With agency inputs)
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