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Donald Trump urged to ban TikTok, other Chinese apps

As evidence, TikTok's privacy policy for US residents is upfront about the vast quantity of user data it collects and shares with the CCP, the lawmakers said.

By: PTI | Washington | July 16, 2020 7:41:24 am
US bans Tiktok, Donald Trump, Trump urged to ban TikTok, Chinese apps banned in US, President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A group of 24 influential Republican Congressmen urged US President Donald Trump on Wednesday to ban TikTok and other Chinese mobile applications, stating that India has taken the extraordinary step of banning 60 Chinese-affiliated apps due to national security concerns.

Writing to support the administration’s efforts to restrict TikTok and other social media platforms linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from accessing US markets, the lawmakers, in a letter to Trump, alleged that these popular apps’ data collection practices, coupled with China’s onerous cybersecurity laws requiring all companies operating in China, including TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to share user data with CCP authorities, present a very real threat to US national security.

“As such, we urge your administration to take decisive action to protect the American people’s privacy and safety,” the lawmakers wrote to Trump.

“In June, India took the extraordinary step of banning 60 Chinese-affiliated mobile apps, including TikTok, due to national security concerns. However, the CCP’s systemic campaign to collect and illicitly transmit user data for the Chinese government’s purposes is not unique to Indian consumers,” the lawmakers, led by Congressman Ken Buck, said in the letter.

In fact, Chinese authorities currently enjoy relatively unrestricted access to US consumer and government data through the country’s advanced data mining policies.

As evidence, TikTok’s privacy policy for US residents is upfront about the vast quantity of user data it collects and shares with the CCP, the lawmakers said.

“We automatically collect certain information from you when you use the platform, including internet or other network activity information such as your IP address, geolocation-related data…, unique device identifiers, browser and search history (including content you have viewed on the platform), and cookies,” the privacy policy says.

Additionally, the company’s privacy policy notes that it “also collects information you share with (TikTok) from third-party social network providers and technical and behavioural information about your use of the platform”. As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently stated, Americans should only use this app “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party”, the lawmakers pointed out.

Furthermore, TikTok’s censorship of user content to advance the CCP’s foreign policy aims is deeply concerning, they wrote. Leaked documents detail instructions to ban videos on the app that mention Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or banned religious groups, the lawmakers added.

Moreover, an Australian Strategic Policy Institute report recently found that ByteDance works closely with the Chinese government to enable human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims by disseminating the CCP’s state propaganda.

The company is also required under Chinese laws to provide seats on its board of directors to CCP officials, further cementing the authoritarian government’s role in setting these policies, the letter said.

“It is clear that the United States should not trust TikTok or any other Chinese-affiliated social media websites or apps to protect Americans’ data, privacy or security. As such, we urge you to take strong action to stop the CCP’s sophisticated espionage campaign against our country and protect our national security,” the Congressmen said.

A bill in the Senate introduced by Senator Josh Hawley seeks to prohibit certain individuals from downloading or using TikTok on any device issued by the United States or a government corporation.

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