Is TikTok really a threat to U.S. data privacy and security?
The TikTok logo outside the company office in Culver City, California, March 16, 2023. /CFP
The TikTok logo outside the company office in Culver City, California, March 16, 2023. /CFP

The TikTok logo outside the company office in Culver City, California, March 16, 2023. /CFP

The United States' congressional hearing on TikTok was "a show trial," said Andy Mok, senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, after the tech company's CEO appeared at the hearing in Washington D.C. on Thursday. 

Mok told CGTN such hearings are meant to gather information to inform policymaking, but "it was very clear there was no interest in gathering information or reaching any sort of reasonable conclusion." He added that the U.S. has "already decided what they want to do."

The expert said watching the hearing was "a shameful opportunity" to reveal the "dark underside of the American political establishment."

Mok said what really concerned the U.S. congresspeople, who claimed the tech company was a national security risk, was any connection between TikTok and the Chinese government.

However, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew hit back at the claim during the five-hour hearing. "The bottom line is this, American data stored on American soil, by an American company, overseen by American personnel," he said. 

Chew added that the company has been "building what amounts to a firewall to seal off protected U.S. user data from unauthorized foreign access" and has a contract with software company Oracle to store U.S. user data.

Are security risks legitimate?

The extensive amount of data TikTok may be able to collect "isn't any more invasive or illegal than what other U.S. tech companies do," and its "not an issue that's unique or specific to TikTok," according to a report by CNN on Friday.

Evan Greer, director of the nonprofit advocacy group Fight for the Future, said that "if policymakers want to protect Americans from surveillance, they should advocate for a basic privacy law that bans all companies from collecting so much sensitive data about us in the first place, rather than engaging in what amounts to xenophobic showboating that does exactly nothing to protect anyone.” 

Anton Dahbura, executive director of the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute, said that people who use TikTok might think they're not doing anything that would be of interest to a foreign government, but that's not always the case. 

"Important information about the United States is not strictly limited to nuclear power plants or military facilities; it extends to other sectors, such as food processing, the finance industry and universities," Dahbura said.

Read more:

TikTok CEO grilled by skeptical U.S. lawmakers

What do influencers think about a potential TikTok ban?

(With input from AP)

Search Trends