Emily Parker: TikTok and the Great Firewall of America

Published on by Coindesk | Published on

"A U.S. company should buy TikTok so everyone can keep using it and your data is safe," U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently tweeted.

The argument is that the Chinese-owned app TikTok, which has access to the personal data of millions of Americans, could pose a threat to national security.

The problem is the assumption U.S. companies can be trusted to keep personal data private and safe.

No, this isn't "Whataboutism", or "America does bad things, too." It's simply to say we don't even know for sure TikTok is mishandling personal data or surveilling ordinary citizens.

The idea of a foreign-owned company holding a honeypot of personal data on millions of Americans - data subject to a third-party hack or pressure from a government - is not a great scenario.

The problem is the assumption that U.S. companies can be trusted to keep personal data private and safe.

Nor is excessive data collection limited to cell phone companies.

In the case of TikTok, the fear is Beijing could demand data on American users, and TikTok owner ByteDance would have no choice but to hand it over.

The data stored by U.S. companies has facilitated precisely that situation.

We can start with U.S. lawmakers acknowledging this problem is much bigger than TikTok and won't be solved by simply putting more data in the hands of U.S. companies.