US Is Considering New Measures To Restrict TikTok And Other Foreign Apps Due To Security Concerns

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Feb 3, 2022 05:44 PM +05:30 IST
US Is Considering New Measures To Restrict TikTok And Other Foreign Apps Due To Security ConcernsTikTok Logo
Snapshot
  • The US Commerce Department might now require apps like TikTok to disclose source code and other data logs to a third-party auditor under the new measures.

The Biden administration is reportedly evaluating comments on a proposed regulation change that would give the government greater supervision over apps that it deems a national security concern.

TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance is based in China, which is specifically mentioned as a "foreign adversary" in the Commerce Department's proposal, could be harmed as a result of new rules. It needs to be noted that TikTok is now the most downloaded app worldwide with over 600 million downloads in 2021.

According to the filing, apps that are owned or controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of a foreign adversary would be subject to a set of risk criteria, including whether they could be used "to conduct surveillance that enables espionage" and whether they could be used for "military, intelligence, or proliferation activities".

The Commerce Department might now require apps like TikTok to disclose source code and other data logs to a third-party auditor under the terms of the plan. However, so far nothing has been declared about the exact time frame for when the regulation will be finalised.

“That rule is going to be significant, and will be a tool in the way that we deal with the threat,” said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in an interview.

TikTok, the most popular and downloaded app in the world followed by Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram, has already been banned by the American military for use on government-issued devices.

However the company has previously stated that it does not exchange information with the Chinese government, that user data is maintained in the United States and Singapore, and that content moderation is overseen by a team based in the United States that operates independently from China.

For years, American officials have been evaluating TikTok's connection with China. In 2020, former President Donald Trump attempted to ban TikTok's US app and then force its sale. But later, President Joe Biden signed an executive order rescinding Trump's efforts, stating that the government should conduct a rigorous, evidence-based study to assess national security dangers posed by foreign apps.

The Commerce Department has made suggestions to the White House to minimise the risk of Chinese apps collecting data on American users and sharing it with Beijing. Raimondo stated: “We take incredibly seriously the national-security risks presented by these connected software applications. These are complex issues we take very seriously.”

Concerns over TikTok's link with China continued among American officials when the Chinese government began cracking down on digital companies within its own borders last year, according to experts. Last year, Shehzad Qazi, managing director at the research firm China Beige Book told Business Insider, "TikTok is just one of the various areas where we're waiting to see what the [United States] administration actually wants to do. I can tell you that people in Congress are absolutely going to be concerned."

TikTok isn't available in China, and the company’s top executives like CEO and COO are located in Singapore and Los Angeles. However, current and former employees earlier revealed that personnel in ByteDance's Beijing office, dubbed "HQ" internally, typically have the last say on app product decisions. For example, a former staffer said, "It's that feeling a little bit in the US where you're sort of helpless to a lot of the decisions that are made out of China."

However, in terms of the latest development in regulation limiting TikTok, the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said that the United States should not “overstretch” the idea of national security and politicise economic concerns. It also stated, “Efforts should be made to provide an open, fair, just and nondiscriminatory business environment for market players from other countries to invest and operate in the U.S.”

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