United States Senator demands TikTok app store ban

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 2, 2023
Security
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21

In a letter sent to the CEOs of Google and Apple, United States senator Michael Bennet, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, demanded that the companies ban the China-based TikTok application from their application stores.

Bennet claims in the letter that TikTok poses a threat to the national security of the United States because "of its parent company's obligations under Chinese law".

TikTok is one of the most popular applications on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. On Google Play, TikTok is listed with more than one billion downloads, 57 million reviews and an editor's choice badge, making it the number one top free social app on the entire store.

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On Apple's App Store, TikTok is listed as the number one entertainment app. Apple does not reveal download numbers, but ratings for TikTok have reached 14.1 million on the company's App Store.

TikTok is one of the most popular applications on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. On Google Play, TikTok is listed with more than one billion downloads, 57 million reviews and an editor's choice badge, making it the number one top free social app on the entire store.

On Apple's App Store, TikTok is listed as the number one entertainment app. Apple does not reveal rough download counts, but ratings for TikTok have reached 14.1 million on the company's App Store.

Bennet cites several Chinese laws that decree that organizations "shall support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work", that Chinese state security may demand cooperation from companies, and that agents of the state are allowed to "access relevant materials and files and make use of its communication tools and facilities".

TikTok has faced questions regarding data storage, access and privacy in the past. In November 2022, TikTok confirmed that Chinese employees could remotely access data of European users.

A Buzzfeed report, cited by Bennet, suggests that user data from the United States was accessed repeatedly from China. Buzzfeed accessed more than 80 internal TikTok recordings and discovered that nine different TikTok employees suggested that "engineers in China had access to US data". On several occasions, meeting members stated that Chinese employees had access to all data.

TikTok has been a controversial topic in the United States for years. In 2020, the Trump administration attempted to ban the app from app stores in the United States. More recently, concerns about the app have increased, culminating in the unveiling of a bipartisan bill to ban the TikTok app nationwide.

27 state governments have already passed full or partial bans of the TikTok application.

While things seem to be moving toward a full ban in the United States, not everyone seems to agree that banning the app is the right way to move forward. In a recent New York Times article, Glenn S. Gerstell argues that banning TikTok would not make the United States safer.

Gerstell acknowledges that there is a possibility that the Chinese government could compel TikTok's owner, ByteDance, to hand over information or use the application to spread disinformation, influence elections, or manipulate public opinion.

ByteDance admitted in December 2022 that it fired several of its China and United States-based employees for accessing private information of users from the United States, including several journalists. There is no evidence that ByteDance provided information to the Chinese government.

ByteDance submitted a plan in August 2022, detailing how it would prevent the Chinese government from accessing U.S. user data and give the U.S. government oversight of the platform.

Senator Bennet's letter is available in full on Scribd.

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United States Senator demands TikTok app store ban
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United States Senator demands TikTok app store ban
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United States senator Michael Bennet demanded in a letter to Google and Apple that the companies ban the Chinese-based TikTok application.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. ECJ said on February 2, 2023 at 6:16 pm
    Reply

    If the US government were actually concerned about security and privacy, they should be passing laws that prevent *any* social media company from abusing their platform – whether it be TikTok, Facebook, or any other social media company. Singling out a single company, rather than passing robust privacy and data laws just comes across as inept and hypocritical.

    1. David said on February 2, 2023 at 9:14 pm
      Reply

      spot on. i’m no fan of china but their abuses of privacy and censorship are being eclipsed by the florida governor. and our foreign policy shows we have absolutely no commitment to human rights, from the middle east to central america. this may not be a case of singling out a single company as much as it is of making an example of a popular app “not made here.” nationalism, as is often the case in the u.s., rears its ugly head once again.

    2. Yanta said on February 3, 2023 at 12:30 am
      Reply

      Absolutely!

      They should also stop looking for ways to destroy our privacy by other means and stop trying to centralize data within the government arena – the place where the data is least seceure and most compromised and without a shred of doubt, the most abused.

  2. Someone said on February 2, 2023 at 6:35 pm
    Reply

    Old-gen socials is : Fb, LinkedIn, Instagram, viber
    New gen socials : TikTok, Snapchat, Telegram, kakao talk..

    New-gen is based to ardent Chinese supporters of social-media apps
    and also on chinese-developed games. America coms in fight against
    cyber-war of China and want to block those china-based social from
    American people. So better trust America ?..

  3. Ashray said on February 2, 2023 at 7:27 pm
    Reply

    Good decision.

  4. Tom Hawack said on February 2, 2023 at 8:02 pm
    Reply

    Fair-play is inherent to the American culture… as long as they’re the strongest, the winners. Otherwise all means are legitimate to reconquer the first place and to win. Hiroshima & Nagasaki after Pearl Harbor. “Fair-play” is an Anglo-Saxon term, maybe did this culture invent it because aware they needed it.

    “The difference between us, British soldiers, and you, Surcouf and your corsairs, is that you fight for money when we fight for honor”

    “We all fight for what we lack” answered Surcouf.

    Tik-Tok is making its way and bothers many, as several other Chinese companies. It is unfortunate that rather to do better (fair-play) some American hot-necks will dig into imagination to combat the adversary.

    Tik-Tok, “a threat to national security”. Good Lord…

    1. pHROZEN gHOST said on February 2, 2023 at 8:42 pm
      Reply

      Tom, I love reading your comments. You nailed it here.

      1. Tom Hawack said on February 2, 2023 at 9:04 pm
        Reply

        @pHROZEN gHOST, so you must have noticed that I don’t bother to express what I like as well when applicable.
        Things we like, love and others we dislike, hate, in all cultures.

    2. Seeprime said on February 2, 2023 at 11:31 pm
      Reply

      Tom, are you saying that TikTok saving data on which cat videos people watch is not a threat? Ha! You indeed nailed it.

      1. Tom Hawack said on February 3, 2023 at 10:27 am
        Reply

        @Seeprime, what I’m suggesting is that social networks and dedicated applications are neither less nor more privacy-intrusive elsewhere than in the States and that, from there on :

        1- The USA and its “fair-play”, free markets, free competition, “In God we trust” and venerated moralism happens to be neglected when the country’s leadership is at risk. Other countries don’t act better but at least they don’t continuously refer to an hypothetical universal dogma of a superior civilization.

        2- Concerning TikTok, America is embarrassed when they can no longer have a grip on communications as it does with Made-in-USA data collection. I don’t know, maybe the 3-letters agencies just cannot peek TikTok as they do with Tweeter, Facebook, Instagram etc…

        3- What goes to TikTok doesn’t go to American social networks.

        All social networks are parasites, all except maybe very few less known ones. I’m always surprised to discover an America branding human rights, national security when themselves are the first to interfere abroad.

      2. Seeprime said on February 3, 2023 at 10:59 am
        Reply

        Tom, my comment about cat videos was sarcasm. I agree with your view of social networks.

      3. Yash said on February 3, 2023 at 11:25 am
        Reply

        ‘I’m always surprised to discover an America branding human rights, national security when themselves are the first to interfere abroad.’

        By saying this, you’ve proved you’re the head of marxist ANTIFA immigrant supporting anti-Christian god denier flat earth denier pride flag wearing jew.

        Of course above part is sarcasm but that is the current state of American politics.

      4. Tom Hawack said on February 3, 2023 at 11:38 am
        Reply

        I have to confess that I bounced on the sarcasm to further develop my first comment.
        I don’t know anything about TikTok (nor about whatever social network), but there must be more to it than cat videos to allow a senator to brand it as “a threat to national security”. I won’t investigate on the senator’s arguments, no thesis in view.

    3. John B said on February 2, 2023 at 11:57 pm
      Reply

      TikTok is yet another marxist trojan horse. The fraud of marxism is that no one “owns private property”.

      You know who else doesn’t own any property?

      Slaves don’t own private property.

      And dumbing down Americans by reducing and outright eliminating moral standards is one of the most dangerous tactics the marxists have come up with mid-1900s.

      A country has a right to defend it’s people when it’s rights are being usurped to enslave those people. To say otherwise is nothing short of high treason.

      1. Tom Hawack said on February 3, 2023 at 10:31 am
        Reply

        @John B, Marxism is dead and buried, thanks God. Totalitarianism is not. Freedom is an aspiration, an aim in progress, never achieved.

  5. Haakon said on February 2, 2023 at 8:21 pm
    Reply

    TikTok? Pffft. That’s nuthin’.

    For the Android “phone” I bought November 2021, upon first use and entering my big-three carrier authentication, I ignored the google login dialogues, dismissing the warnings of all the really really good stuff I’d be missing out on.

    I sideloaded Adguard and Revo Uninstaller. While Facebook and Twitter were the only social media apps present per Revo’s scan (among other resident tools), AdGuard’s filtering log reported active connections to tiktok dot com, block rule created. Connections existed as well for tumbler dot com, instagram dot com and facebook dot net. And netflix dot com, the app itself not present either.

    After uninstalling facebook and twitter, their dot com connections still persisted. Block rules for all those other domains were then built.

    facebook dot net is used by the Facebook App Manger and Facebook Services system processes and un-uninstallable, both rendered inoperative via AdGuard’s apps manager.

    After a reboot, it was then I logged into my “free” google account.

    During a similar first use cleansing process for my previous “phone,” circa 2018, I discovered a persistent system connection to a server farm in Malaysia. Yeah, I blocked that, too.

    BTW, regarding any TikTok ban… too late.

  6. pHROZEN gHOST said on February 2, 2023 at 8:41 pm
    Reply

    Who’s in his wallet? REALLY!!!

  7. Someone said on February 2, 2023 at 9:09 pm
    Reply

    Old-gen socials is : Fb, LinkedIn, Instagram, viber
    New gen socials : TikTok, Snapchat, Telegram

    New-gen is based to ardent Chinese supporters of social-media apps
    and also on chinese-developed games. America coms in fight against
    cyber-war of China and want to block those china-based social from
    American people. So better trust America ?..

  8. Anonymous said on February 3, 2023 at 12:04 am
    Reply

    Its time to ban it and all the other copycat short video platforms.

  9. Peter said on February 3, 2023 at 5:33 am
    Reply

    Tiktok is not a security as much as annoying because of all zoomers producing cringe content, which i suspect is the real reason for a ban.

    1. Jek Porkins said on February 3, 2023 at 9:20 am
      Reply

      I share your hate for TikTok, but how are Instagram and Facebook any different? I’m from the generation when Facebook became popular and you were considered a loser if you did not have a profile there. I even caught the end of MySpace.

      Yet I only hate TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, for some reason I don’t hate MySpace, because it was somehow better. You could create a completely custom profile, that looked nothing like the default page, unlike those new social networks where all you can do is change your profile picture and maybe a banner image and that’s it. Now these social networks even require you to use your real name and picture, last I remember Facebook ever required providing ID.

      In contrast, MySpace was really “your space”, you could use a fake image of a Naruto character or whatever, use a fake name and nobody cared, especially not MySpace. You could add music to your profile that plays automatically when the page loads and much more.

      So don’t look at TikTok as somehow worse than Facebook or Instagram, I can’t say anything about TikTok as I never visited the website or watched content, but Facebook and Instagram are used 99% by narcissists and attention whores who feel the need to post stupid things from their useless lives as they live with the delusion that others need their updates.

      But nowadays is probably much worse. One time I went to the local stadium track for a run and next to me passed a father and his probably 8 year old kid. And the kid was telling the father how it posted something somewhere and got “this many” likes and it was talking like it was some kind of a personal achievement. When I was like 8 years old all I cared about was playing Quake 3 Arena or Counter-Strike 1.0.

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