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How big of a threat TikTok actually poses amid Capitol Hill hearing

Indiana University law professor Fred Cate reveals if TikTok presents as big of a threat as the government claims
Posted at 11:35 PM, Mar 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-24 23:35:25-04

The Biden Administration is calling on TikTok’s owners to sell their share of the company or face a potential U.S. ban.

China says it will firmly oppose any forced sale of TikTok.

TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, testified this week on Capitol Hill about the app’s ability to keep user data safe.

TikTok does collect user data in a similar fashion to American social media companies. However, the concern is that the Chinese government could force the company to transfer TikTok user data.

“It feels like classic political theater,” Indiana University law professor Fred Cate said. “In other words, TikTok collects a lot of data about its users, but of course all social medias collect a lot of data about their users.”

According to Cate, who teaches data privacy and security law, Congress is addressing real issues but missing the focus in the hearings.

“There’s a gem of a real issue here. It’s got China attached to it, so we can all get upset about it, but let’s not forget the last hearing that Congress held on social media was about Facebook when it was leaking data and paying fines to the Federal Trade Commissions.”

According to Cate, TikTok does present a real threat, but it’s the same threat that is found when using any form of social media.

“TikTok is not an infrastructure, but it’s an app. It’s the most popular app right now on the Apple iPhone store. But it’s not the only social media app. They’re using Facebook, Instagram and all those apps are collecting personal data.”

Cate says all social media apps make personal data available to governments, and if TikTok is banned in the United States, China can go to another social media app to get user data from them.

“China doesn’t need to own a company or have a company based in its nation to get the data. In fact, there are companies that would just sell the data to them.”

Cate says if the United States bans TikTok, it will propose the question of what they can ban next.

“What about when the government picks something else they want to ban? The first amendment is still relevant here. It protects our right to communicate, so rather than ban the activity, they’re going to ban the speech.”

The fate of TikTok is the country is uncertain right now, but according to Cate, users should just continue using the app as they normally do.