Why is TikTok all over the news lately? Being a father of a 12-year-old daughter, I hear more about this app then I would like. I know about all the new crazes, challenges, dances, who is trending and who is gaining followers and who is losing followers.

I understand the popularity of the application, mix in music, dancing, and a video slightly longer than a vine and hours of entertainment follows.  My daughter, has been an avid user of the TikTok for years, and while her account is set to private and we routinely audit who she follows and who is following her, I still struggle with the idea that she uses social media, especially an app that has serious privacy concerns.  These privacy concerns have now moved to the forefront of the news media cycle. In recent days, Amazon has banned the application, then called the ban an accident and that the email was not supposed to be sent.  Wells Fargo has wholly banned the application from company phones and does not play on relenting or reversing the ban.  

Is TikTok getting banned?

Upon the rollout of IOS14 by Apple, a new feature on the Operating System, detected that TikTok was accessing user’s clipboard data.  ByteDance, the Beijing based owner of the application, has since said that this feature has been removed by a new update rolled out in the App Store, but have not mentioned if this access has been removed from Android devices.  This was not the first time that ByteDance had been discovered stealing and harvesting this information.  Last year, they were found checking users’ clipboards every few keystrokes even when the app was running in the background.  When this discovery was made, they promised to remove this feature and stop this practice. Trust was lost between users and TikTok once they were found out to be continuing this practice. 

The banning of the application has moved passed the private sectors and into the public sector.  Last week Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, stated that the administration was looking into banning the application throughout the United States.  India has already banned the use of the application and Australia is looking into this as well.  The United States Military apparatus has declared that the application is a security threat, with the Defense Department advising that no personnel keep it on their phones.  The U.S. Army has gone further, enforcing an outright ban of the application and does not allow any soldier to use it.  The U.S. Navy may soon follow suit.  The biggest concern is if the Chinese Government can access that data that ByteDance is getting from their users.  ByteDance claims that all United States user’s data is stored in with in the U.S. and the backups in Singapore.  This allows them to circumnavigate Chinese laws and deny access to the Government if it is requested.   

Within the next couple of weeks, we should know if a complete ban in the United States will take place.  If it does not as a parent, I will have to make the decision if the potential invasion of privacy is worth taking away an application that my daughter enjoys.  If I make this decision, I may not receive any Best Dad Coffee mugs for a time, but will know that my daughters privacy is somewhat better shielded. 

If you have concerns about the safety of you or your companies data, feel free to reach out for an evaluation of your current security and safety practices.  Jason Moen (402)339-7441 or at jmoen@hubwisetech.com.