TikTok Ban in The USA: What it Might Lead To

TikTok Ban in The USA: What it Might Lead To

By auroraoddi

Several countries may have reasons to remove TikTok, with one of the primary concerns being the safety of user data. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company, and there are worries that personal information of users could be accessible by the Chinese government or third parties in China. Some nations, such as the United States, also cite national security as an issue.

Moreover, TikTok has faced criticism for its content, which some find inappropriate for younger users. Privacy is another issue, as users’ videos can be viewed by anyone, potentially enabling monitoring of their activities.

In addition, some countries may be uneasy about TikTok promoting cultural and political values that conflict with their own. India, for instance, recently banned TikTok and other Chinese apps due to concerns over national security and inappropriate content. Overall, the reasons for wanting to remove TikTok vary by nation and context, but data safety and content appropriateness are among the main factors.

A TikTok Ban?

TikTok faces a potential U.S. ban unless ByteDance divests its ownership. The situation leaves millions of American users uncertain about their access to the app. Some may consider using VPNs to bypass the ban, but this may not be feasible. However, it’s not a done deal yet, and there are still legal options to avoid or comply with a TikTok ban in the U.S. Here are the key factors being assessed.

What are We Talking About?

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is the interagency committee assessing national security risks related to the app to minimize potential harm if it continues to work locally. The committee has the power to propose that President Joe Biden reverse ByteDance’s acquisition of, a forerunner of TikTok, and force the sale of such businesses.

TikTok has proposed a mitigation plan as an alternative to a mandatory sale. But this is unlikely to succeed as CFIUS has already threatened a ban if ByteDance does not divest its stake.

Reversing the acquisition would be a complicated process, requiring the undoing of an operation from several years ago. The Trump administration previously attempted this route without success. Although the Chinese government is likely to object again, it must be cautious in its objections because its argument to the United States is that TikTok works on its self.

Lindsay Gorman, senior fellow for emerging technologies at the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy stated:

“That would be part of the calculus and how aggressively China would want to respond”

If the United States were to ban TikTok, the resulting impact on the app’s operations would be uncertain. Oracle serves as the cloud hosting provider for all of TikTok’s activity in the U.S., while internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon direct traffic to end-users. Additionally, Apple and Google-controlled app stores are the primary sources for consumers to download the TikTok app.

According to Shannon Reaves, a partner in Stroock’s CFIUS compliance group, any action taken against third parties would not be within CFIUS’s purview, as the agency is solely responsible for assessing foreign investments.

“There won’t be action from CFIUS as a result of this review that will be taken against third parties that are not a part of this transaction. So your Apples and your Googles and so forth, that that will not happen.”

Reaves said. To compel app distributors, ISPs, and cloud services to block access to TikTok, the government may need to resort to legislation or executive orders.

According to Douglas Schmidt, an engineering professor at Vanderbilt, while some tech-savvy individuals may still find ways to access a banned service, the average consumer would have a hard time doing so without specialized knowledge in computer security.

Even using a VPN may not be enough, as app store credentials could still reveal a user’s location. Additionally, technology exists that can detect VPN usage when attempting to access a banned app, as explained by NordVPN’s Gerald Kasulis.

Security Issues

The security concerns around TikTok boil down to two main issues. Who can access US consumer data and who can control what information US users see. Chinese law allows companies to hand over internal information to the government for supposed national security purposes. The companies are raising concerns about the safety of US user data stored by TikTok.

To address these concerns, TikTok has developed Project Texas, which includes vetting its code in the US and a separate board of directors for a domestic subsidiary. However, legislators in Washington remain skeptical of TikTok’s intentions.

Governments face a problem that is relevant to them. Namely, that users have no idea what information is being shared with the Chinese government. Users may not realize the value of their data to bad actors. Which can be used for phishing attacks or blackmail.

Policing data access is difficult, especially when suspicion remains about those collecting and using the information. The situation is unfamiliar for US companies compared to China, which blocks access to most major US internet services.

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