Banning TikTok is no solution

On September 18, the Department of Commerce will be shutting down downloads of TikTok and WeChat in the US.1 TikTok will stay up for current users until November 12, after which President Trump is threatening to ban TikTok entirely if it’s not sold to a U.S. company such as Microsoft or Oracle.2
All of our apps need stronger privacy protections - but the U.S.’s own weak privacy laws allow American companies like Facebook and Google to collect and sell on the global market just as much of our personal information as TikTok does.3
Let’s fix the problem at the source. If our leaders are truly concerned about data collection and our privacy, they’ll enact strict rules for ALL the companies that collect our data, not ban TikTok. 

TikTok is a popular and rapidly growing app for creating and sharing short videos. It has 50 million active daily users in the U.S.4

President Trump has signed an executive order5 which gives ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company) until November 12 to sell TikTok in the U.S. If they’re unable to sell, all transactions with the company will be banned. A similar ban is also being enacted on popular messaging app WeChat.6

Though other companies with Chinese investment such as Grindr7 and PatientsLikeMe8 have been forced to sell, none have been forced to do so under an emergency order like this.

Intelligence agencies have not identified TikTok as a particular threat,9 and legal experts are voicing concern over Trump’s assertion that the United States Treasury should get a “very big proportion” of the sale price if Microsoft were to buy TikTok.10  It now appears as though Oracle will partner with ByteDance in the U.S., in a bid meant to satisfy the Trump administration, but it remains to be seen if this move will avert the ban.11

TikTok has gained prominence recently after users took to the platform to support Black Lives Matter,12 as well as coordinated a stunt to register for tickets to a Trump rally in Tulsa and not show up.13

The ban is being framed as a data and privacy issue, but picking on TikTok alone does very little for our privacy when the U.S.’s data privacy laws for all apps are in such desperate need of strengthening. 

If the Trump administration is serious about protecting our private data, they should take serious action to create strong privacy laws that should:

  • Protect us from companies like Clearview AI that scrape our online photos and put them into enormous facial recognition databases;
  • Stop our location data from being sold by the telecom companies that provide our mobile data;
  • Set limits on app data gathering and sale; 
  • Create and enforce our right to access data held on us and demand it be data be deleted.

It’s not right or fair to prejudicially ban certain apps when our own data protection laws leave us open to such huge privacy violations. Speak up using the form above.

Sources

  1. TikTok and WeChat: US to ban app downloads in 48 hours - BBC News
  2. Trump’s TikTok ban is a gross abuse of power: The Verge
  3. TikTok Probably Doesn't Have Any More Data on You Than Facebook or Instagram: Gizmodo
  4. TikTok reveals detailed user numbers for the first time: CNBC
  5. Executive order: Office of the Press Secretary
  6. WeChat U.S. ban cuts off users link to families in China: Reuters
  7. Grindr sold by Chinese owner after US raised national security concerns: TechCrunch
  8. The Trump administration is forcing this health start-up that took Chinese money into a fire sale: CNBC
  9. Is TikTok More of a Parenting Problem Than a Security Threat?: NY Times
  10. Trump Wants U.S. to Get Cut of Any TikTok Deal. No One Knows How That’d Work: NY Times
  11. TikTok will partner with Oracle in the United States after Microsoft loses bid: CNN
  12. TikTok serves as hub for #blacklivesmatter activism: CNN
  13. Trump's campaign was trolled by TikTok users in Tulsa: CNN

Press: Matt Hatfield | Phone: +1 (888) 441-2640 ext. 1  | matt@openmedia.org