App leaves Hong Kong . . .
In response to the National Security law imposed by Beijing, TikTok, the popular short video app, exited Hong Kong last week, disappearing from both Apple’s and Google’s app stores and blocking existing users in the city. The move comes as TikTok and its Chinese developer, ByteDance, attempt to distance themselves from Beijing’s controversial policies. TikTok has become a geopolitical target, coming under international scrutiny and backlash for its close ties to the Chinese government, as well as security and privacy concerns. The app was banned in India, its largest international market, after deadly border clashes between Indian and Chinese troops. The ban impacted close to 1.2 million Indian creators who earned income-producing 15-second to one-minute videos on topics ranging from comedy to art to makeup tutorials, for approximately 200 million users.
Privacy and security under scrutiny . . .
TikTok has landed in hot water for its data collection, sub-par user information management, and censorship of political topics even outside of China. It has tried to re-vamp its image by hiring a former Disney executive as CEO and issuing statements that the information it collects is comparable to that of Facebook and Google and that it stores such data outside of China. However, it is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for inadequately deleting user information and collecting data on users under 14 without parental consent. Rising security and privacy concerns prompted Amazon to ask its employees to remove TikTok from their devices (although it later retracted this policy). Most recently, Wells Fargo issued a similar policy for its employees.
The U.S. and Canada to ban TikTok?
The U.S. has repeatedly said that it is looking at taking action against TikTok. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S is seriously considering banning certain Chinese apps, especially TikTok. Canada, which has been silent on the issue, may come under pressure to follow suit. Canada is home to numerous TikTok content creators that depend financially on the app. With or without TikTok, it is key for Canada to update and strengthen its own privacy and data use policies, as social media and tech apps increasingly form part of daily life for many.