Archive for TikTok

The US Will Try And Ban TikTok…. Here’s Why That Will Happen, And What Might Stop It From Happening

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 24, 2023 by itnerd

Yesterday, the CEO of TikTok Shou Zi Chew took a visit to Washington to try and head off a ban of the Chinese owned social media app. And from all reports such as this one from Platformer, it didn’t go all that well for TikTok. And it now looks more likely than ever that TikTok will be banned. Here’s why that’s all but certain:

  • Everyone on both sides of the aisle want TikTok Banned: There’s rare agreement from Democrats and Republicans on wanting to ban TikTok. Which means any legislation that relates to a ban will likely go through the House and Senate very quickly and get signed off by The White House almost instantly.
  • Nobody wants to buy TikTok: The only way TikTok avoids a ban is if ByteDance who are the Chinese owners of TikTok sell it to an American company. But the thing is, I don’t know who would want to go down that road to buy TikTok. Forbes estimates that TikTok is worth $50 Billion which isn’t an insignificant amount of money. Then whoever buys TikTok would have to hop through so many hoops to avoid having the US government lower the boom on them. And that won’t be cheap. Thus this is a scenario that simply won’t happen.
  • China: The Chinese government created rules that gives it veto power of any sale of Chinese tech to foreign interests. Thus there is zero chance that China would sign off on any sale of TikTok to the US. Which means that a ban would be the only option for the US.

That’s all great. But here’s two reasons why a TikTok ban won’t happen:

  • Young people use TikTok, and they vote. Thus you have to wonder if politicians will really want to ban an app and anger a bunch of people who have the ability to sway an election that’s coming next year.
  • The courts are likely to weigh in and it is possible that they would stop any ban from happening.

So is a ban of TikTok inbound? I think that lawmakers will try and ban it. But it’s far from a sure thing as far as I can see.

BBC To Staff: You Might Want To Remove TikTok From Your Phones

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 20, 2023 by itnerd

First it was governments banning TikTok on government employee phones. Now it’s over to private corporations. Well, in this case semi-private corporation as BBC is a public broadcaster as they’ve told this to their employees:

The BBC has advised staff to delete TikTok from corporate phones because of privacy and security fears.

The BBC seems to be the first UK media organisation to issue the guidance – and only the second in the world after Denmark’s public service broadcaster.

The BBC said it would continue to use the platform for editorial and marketing purposes for now. TikTok has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

The app has been banned on government phones in the UK and elsewhere.

So the way I read this, it’s a suggestion not a command. But that could change. Perhaps that would be based on what happens with TikTok elsewhere. But even this step by the BBC is going to get the attention of other organizations who may do this, or go further. And it will be interesting to see if TikTok or the Chinese Communist Party responds to this in any way.

Let’s Say You Want To Ban TikTok Outright… How Would It Be Done?

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 19, 2023 by itnerd

I’ve been talking a lot about Chinese owned TikTok being banned in various places. Most of these bans relate to devices with access to some sort of government network. But the stakes are about to go up for TikTok as the US is looking to ban the social media app outright. If that were to happen, how would such a ban be implemented? I have some thoughts on how that could work:

  1. Apple and Google would be required to stop offering the app for download: This one is easy as both companies can do this easily. Not only that, they can do this on a geographical basis. By that I mean that they could enforce a ban in the US by making TikTok “disappear” in the US. Though I suspect that any sort of ban would spread elsewhere, which means that they would have to do this in more places. But as I said earlier, this is easy for either company.
  2. Apple and Google would be required to remove TikTok from phones: This is where things start to get tricky. I can’t imagine that any ban on TikTok would be effective if the app were still on people’s phones. Thus I can see a scenario where TikTok was instantly “Thanos Snapped” off of every phone the moment that the ban went into effect. I imagine that both Apple and Google have the ability to do this as mobile device management programs that companies use to manage smartphones can do this. Where things become very tricky is that I can see a scenario where people might sue Apple, Google, or the government because they would feel that nobody has the right to remove apps from their phones. It is possible that both Apple and Google have language in their terms of service that nobody reads that allows them to do that. But even if they do, I suspect that a court will have to sort this out.
  3. Apple and Google would be required to stop people from “side loading” TikTok: Here’s another tricky part of this whole discussion. Side loading. Which is the act of loading an app that isn’t on an App Store onto your device. If you’re on team Apple, you’ll need to do a function called “jailbreaking” to get past Apple’s restrictions on this sort of thing. And that’s not a trivial task for 95% of Apple iPhone users. That to me suggests that Apple likely doesn’t have much to worry about on this front. The real challenge is with team Android who have made “side loading” a sport because it’s not all that difficult to do. Google would have to figure out how to shut that down to ensure that they comply with a ban of TikTok. Which given the diversity of the Android platform may be difficult or next to impossible to do.

Now it is entirely possible that TikTok may avoid an outright ban, making this all irrelevant. But I don’t think so. The US is really intent on taking it to TikTok, and US allies will likely follow suit. Thus I hope that Apple and Google are planning for this as I am sure that a ban of TikTok is coming, and they will need to respond.

New Zealand Becomes The Latest To Ban TikTok On Government Devices

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 17, 2023 by itnerd

The march to ban TikTok continues with news that New Zealand is going to be the latest country to ban TikTok on government devices:

New Zealand said on Friday it would ban TikTok on devices with access to the country’s parliamentary network due to cybersecurity concerns, becoming the latest nation to limit the use of the video-sharing app on government-related devices.

Concerns have mounted globally about the potential for the Chinese government to access users’ location and contact data through ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company.

The depth of those concerns was underscored this week when the Biden administration demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners divest their stakes or the app could face a U.S. ban. 

In New Zealand, TikTok will be banned on all devices with access to parliament’s network by the end of March.

Parliamentary Service Chief Executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero said in an email to Reuters that the decision was taken after advice from cybersecurity experts and discussions within government and with other countries.

    “Based on this information, the Service has determined that the risks are not acceptable in the current New Zealand Parliamentary environment,” he said.

The thing is that TikTok other than saying things like it it “disappointed” by these bans, hasn’t really offered up anything in the way of a substantive rebuttal to accusations that the social media app is a tool for the Chinese Communist Party to spy on the west and spread Chinese propaganda. Until they do that, these bans will simply continue. And likely expand to outright bans where TikTok will be erased from phones everywhere. Such as the one that seems to be coming in the US. So as a result of that, I expect these bans to continue to accelerate and expand.

Things Get Worse For TikTok As The FBI And DOJ Are Apparently Investigating Them

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 16, 2023 by itnerd

I suspect that Chinese owned social media company TikTok is really in deep trouble here as Forbes is reporting that they are under investigation from the FBI and DOJ:

The FBI and the Department of Justice are investigating the events that led TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to use the app to surveil American journalists, including this reporter, according to sources familiar with the departments’ actions.

According to a source in position to know, the DOJ Criminal Division, Fraud Section, working alongside the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, has subpoenaed information from ByteDance regarding efforts by its employees to access U.S. journalists’ location information or other private user data using the TikTok app. According to two sources, the FBI has been conducting interviews related to the surveillance. ByteDance’s use of the app to surveil U.S. citizens was first reported by Forbes in October, and confirmed by an internal company investigation in December.

“We have strongly condemned the actions of the individuals found to have been involved, and they are no longer employed at ByteDance. Our internal investigation is still ongoing, and we will cooperate with any official investigations when brought to us,” said ByteDance spokesperson Jennifer Banks. TikTok did not respond to a request for comment.

The Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, the DOJ and the FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is the first report of the federal government investigating ByteDance’s surveillance practices. It is not clear if the DOJ’s subpoena is connected to the FBI’s interviews.

The reporter behind this story is Emily Baker-White who broke a couple of stories linked above on TikTok spying on journalists last year. And she herself was tracked by TikTok. All of this is highly problematic to TikTok and I am of the opinion that this will lead to an outright ban sooner rather than later. And I am talking about very soon. As in weeks and not months.

That has to be TikTok’s greatest nightmare. Let’s see what they, or their Chinese Communist Party overlords can do about it.

UK Government To Ban TikTok On Government Issued Devices…. But TikTok Has Bigger Issues At The Moment

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 16, 2023 by itnerd

Another day, another TikTok ban on government devices. This time it’s the UK government:

Chinese-owned social media app TikTok is set to be banned on phones and other devices used by government ministers and civil servants on security grounds.

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden will make a statement to MPs later. 

There has been no official comment – but Security Minister Tom Tugendhat had asked the National Cyber Security Centre to review the issue. 

TikTok has strongly denied allegations that it hands users’ data to the Chinese government.

Well, the veracity of that last sentence is in question. But in any case, this is the latest ban of the popular social media app. And it’s not the biggest problem that it has right now. This is:

The Biden administration is threatening a potential ban of TikTok in the United States if its Chinese owners refuse to sell their stakes in the video sharing app, a source close to the company told NBC News on Thursday.

The source, however, cautioned that the company did not see this as a final order. 

The administration’s demand, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, signals a significant shift in the U.S. stance toward Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., which owns the popular video sharing app.

The White House and Treasury Department declined to provide comment to NBC News.

In a statement, a spokesperson for TikTok said: “If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access. The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.”

Any divestiture by ByteDance Ltd. would have to be approved by the Chinese government. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Thursday that the U.S. had failed to provide any evidence that TikTok poses a threat to its national security.

“The U.S. side should stop spreading false information on the issue of data security, stop unreasonably suppressing the enterprises concerned, and provide an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for enterprises of all countries to invest and operate in the U.S.,” the spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, said at a regular news briefing.

Based on how TikTok and the Chinese Communist Party responded to this latest threat of an outright ban of TikTok in the US, I am going to go out on a limb and say that TikTok is going to get banned unless either TikTok, ByteDance or the CCP blink. Because they have to know that if the US bans TikTok, other countries will do the same. Thus it might be time for the CCP, ByteDance and TikTok to start engaging with the US and others to address all the concerns that they have before they get wiped off the phones of millions.

More Canadian Cities Along With The Province Of Ontario Ban TikTok

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 15, 2023 by itnerd

The list of Canadian Cities is growing. Hot off the heels of this, and this ban by four provinces, TikTok has new bans deal with.  The Toronto Star says that the following cities have banned TikTok:

In a statement to the Star Monday, the City of Vaughan said that, “effective immediately,” TikTok is no longer allowed to be installed or used on city workers’ corporate devices.

Meanwhile, Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic took to Twitter on Monday morning to announce the app is being removed from all its corporate smartphones, out of an “abundance of caution.”

Oh yeah and this also happened:

On March 9, the province of Ontario announced a TikTok ban on all provincial government-issued devices — the last province to do so, after all other provinces and territories followed the federal example of barring the app from corporate devices. 

So if you’re TikTok, you have to wonder what is next. The momentum against TikTok is growing and it’s only a matter of time before everyone, everywhere bans TikTok. And you have to wonder what the Chinese Communist Party will do as a result of these bans.

Buckle up.

TikTok Has A New Problem…. An Employee Is Fighting It On Capitol Hill With Allegations That China Can See Users Data

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 10, 2023 by itnerd

TikTok has a bunch of problems in a bunch of places at the moment. But its problems in the US have just gotten worse. Here’s how that is the case:

In an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, the former employee, who worked for six months in the company’s Trust and Safety division ending in early 2022, said the issues could leave data from TikTok’s more than 100 million U.S. users exposed to China-based employees of its parent company ByteDance, even as the company races to implement new safety rules walling off domestic user information.

His allegations threaten to undermine this $1.5 billion restructuring plan, known as Project Texas, which TikTok has promoted widely in Washington as a way to neutralize the risk of data theft or misuse by the Chinese government. 

They could also fuel speculation that the wildly popular short-video app remains vulnerable to having its video-recommendation algorithm and user data distorted for propaganda or espionage. U.S. authorities have not shared evidence that the Chinese government has accessed TikTok’s data or code.

Well, if you’re TikTok you’re thinking that you’re in deep trouble here. They’ve already pushed back on his claims. But at this point, nothing the company says is going to make lawmakers on Capitol Hill feel different and a ban via the RESTRICT act is likely. And that ban is likely to be copied by other countries which means that TikTok could disappear from millions of phones in short order.

It sucks to be TikTok.

Belgium Bans TikTok On Government Phones

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 10, 2023 by itnerd

Belgium becomes the latest country to ban TikTok as news is out that Belgian federal government employees will no longer be allowed to use the Chinese-owned video app TikTok on their work phones, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said today:

De Croo said the Belgian national security council had warned of the risks associated with the large amounts of data collected by TikTok, which is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, and the fact that the company is required to cooperate with Chinese intelligence services. “That is the reality,” the prime minister said in a statement. “That’s why it is logical to forbid the use of TikTok on phones provided by the federal government. The safety of our information must prevail.” The European Commission and the European Parliament last month banned TikTok from staff phones due to growing concerns about the company, and whether China’s government could harvest users’ data or advance its interests.

It’s now getting to the point where I am wondering who is next to ban TikTok. Clearly there is momentum building around the world to get TikTok off of government phones. Thus you have to wonder when and not if that’s going to spread to everyone else. Perhaps that could happen as soon as the RESTRICT act is passed in the US?

The City Of Hamilton Ontario Bans TikTok And “Paused” Their TikTok Account

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 8, 2023 by itnerd

The bad news for TikTok continues to pile up. Hot on the heels of a likely ban in the US, comes news that the city of Hamilton Ontario which is just west of Toronto is going not only ban TikTok from city issued devices, but they have also “paused” their TikTok account which they created this year:

In a notice on Friday, the city’s director of communications pointed directly at federal and some provincial government bans as motivation for a similar directive targeted for city staff.

He said the ban was “out of an abundance of caution” after consultation with the IT division, senior leadership and social media team.

“In addition, the city’s Communications TikTok account will be paused and made dormant while staff await result of the Federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner probe alongside privacy regulators from provinces of Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta,” Matthew Grant said in an update.

Well, that’s not good if you’re TikTok as it’s all these bans and investigations into the social media app are going to make the average citizen think twice about having it on their phones. If I were ByteDance, I would extremely concerned as these bans clearly have momentum now.