Archive for TikTok

TikTok Gets Slapped By EU With with 345 Million Euro Fine Over Child Privacy Violations

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

TikTok’s problems have just grown massively. The Irish Data Protection Commission has fined TikTok €345 million for violating the privacy of children between the ages of 13 and 17 while processing their data. Details below:

TikTok didn’t like this decision as per this:

Responding to the decision, a TikTok spokesperson sent us this statement:

We respectfully disagree with the decision, particularly the level of the fine imposed. The DPC’s criticisms are focused on features and settings that were in place three years ago, and that we made changes to well before the investigation even began, such as setting all under 16 accounts to private by default.

TikTok also told us it is considering its next steps in light of the sanction. So the platform could seek to file a legal appeal in Ireland.

TikTok really needs to clean this stuff up as every time they get fined or called out for something like this, the trust level of TikTok which is is pretty low at the moment gets even lower. That’s not a good scenario for TikTok and it won’t end well for them.

TikTok Banned For NYC Employees

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

It’s been a while since I’ve written about someplace banning TikTok. But one of the biggest cities out there has just joined the bandwagon:

New York City is banning TikTok from city-owned devices and requiring agencies to remove the app within the next 30 days.

The directive issued Wednesday comes after a review by the NYC Cyber Command which a city official said found that TikTok “posed a security threat to the city’s technical networks.” Starting immediately, city employees are barred from downloading or using the app and accessing TikTok’s website from any city-owned devices.

“While social media is great at connecting New Yorkers with one another and the city, we have to ensure we are always using these platforms in a secure manner,” a NYC City Hall spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge Wednesday. “NYC Cyber Command regularly explores and advances proactive measures to keep New Yorkers’ data safe.”

The city cited US Office of Management and Budget guidelines discouraging TikTok’s use on government devices as well as federal legislation banning the app passed earlier this year.

TikTok really has an issue here as they have been unable to come up with any argument that stops places from banning the social media app. Until they do that, this will keep happening. And at some point, TikTok will have to do something different before the narrative simply becomes “TikTok is evil.”

It’s Official – Montana Bans TikTok

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 18, 2023 by itnerd

After being passed by lawmakers in the state recently. Montana is now the first U.S. state to ban TikTok after Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed legislation to ban the app from operating in the state:

Montana will make it unlawful for Google and Apple’s app stores to offer TikTok within the state, but will not impose any penalties on individuals using the app. The ban is to take effect Jan. 1, 2024, and is almost certain to face legal challenges.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the first lawsuits to be filed. I’m guessing that it will be filed by TikTok based on this:

Earlier, TikTok issued a statement saying that the new law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok,” and said it will “continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”

You can understand why TikTok would take that position. They don’t want laws like this to spread like wildfire. Nor do they want the US government to do the same thing. My guess is that this is about to blow up as this is a crisis for the Chinese owned social media app.

Montana Is Close To “Banning” TikTok With A $10000 Fine If You Violate The “Ban”

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

Well, things are about to get interesting. Montana has become the first state to ban Chinese owned social media app TikTok. It needs the governors signature. But if he does sign it into law, it will mean this on the surface:

The bill, SB 419, makes it illegal for app stores to give users the option to download the app and also illegal for the company to operate within the state.

The bill does not, however, make it illegal for people who already have TikTok to use the app. A previous version of the bill sought to force internet providers to block TikTok, but that language was later removed. 

Then there’s this part:

The measure would prohibit downloads of TikTok in the state and would fine any “entity” — an app store or TikTok — $10,000 per day for each time someone “is offered the ability” to access or download the app. There would not be penalties for users.

The ban would not take effect until January 2024 and would become void if Congress passes a national measure or if TikTok severs its connections with China.

So if you don’t forcibly remove TikTok from people’s phones, and you’re only going to go after Apple and Google presumably with fines if they allow the download of TikTok, how is this a ban precisely? I assume that it is easy enough for Google and Apple to keep people from Montana from downloading TikTok. But one has to assume that VPN’s would quickly solve that problem. And side loading the app on the Android side of the fence would be another way to get past this “ban”. The bottom line is that this law is pretty ineffective and it’s symbolic at best. This illustrates the fact that banning TikTok is going to be tricky. Assuming if it’s even possible.

TikTok Banned From Government Devices In Australia… And UBC Students Have Been Told That They Might Want To Remove The App Too

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 4, 2023 by itnerd

Australia is joining a growing list of countries who are banning Chinese social media app TikTok from government devices according to Reuters:

 Australia banned TikTok on Tuesday from all federal government-owned devices over security concerns, becoming the latest U.S.-allied country to take action against the Chinese-owned video app.

The ban underscores growing worries that China could use the Beijing-based company, owned by ByteDance Ltd, to harvest users’ data to advance its political agenda, undermining Western security interests.

It also risks renewing diplomatic tension between Australia and its largest trading partner after things eased somewhat since Prime Minister Anthony Albanese took office in May at the head of a Labor government.

TikTok said it was extremely disappointed by Australia’s decision, calling it “driven by politics, not by fact”.

The ban will come into effect “as soon as practicable”, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said in a statement, adding that exemptions would only be granted on a case-by-case basis and with appropriate security measures in place.

Not only that, The University Of British Columbia is suggesting to students that they punt the Chinese social media app from their phones as well:

The school said in a statement issued last week that the app is one of UBC’s fastest-growing social media platforms, used by students, staff and faculty for entertainment, research, outreach and recruitment.

 However, it said the video platform has sparked security and privacy concerns about its data collection practices and data sharing with corporate parent ByteDance.

Although UBC said these risks are “not yet” proven, its privacy and information security teams “believe that TikTok does pose a risk to UBC’s systems and its stakeholders.”

It said the university had recently evaluated “the use of certain TikTok marketing features” and concluded they did not comply with British Columbia’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

This was “due to the sharing of personal information with TikTok without the required contractual protection on TikTok’s use of the data.”

The statement said that “of particular concern” was a reference in TikTok’s terms of service that the app may capture keystroke patterns used on a device, and that this could allow usernames and passwords to be exposed.

The school is recommending that students use a browser to access TikTok content. Now the school does have their own TikTok account which continues to operate. But one has to wonder if they will shut that down for optics reasons.

This illustrates the challenges that TikTok is under. Nobody trusts them. And that’s only going to lead to more bans or more suggestions that you don’t remove it. And it might lead to TikTok being killed via death by a thousand cuts rather than one big ban.

ByteDance Appears To Have A Backup Plan For A TikTok Ban… And It’s Called Lemon8

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 30, 2023 by itnerd

The United States and various other countries are looking to ban TikTok because it is seen as a tool of the Chinese Communist Party to spread misinformation and gather information on people that they can use against them. That’s sent TikTok’s parent company ByteDance looking for options to keep itself alive. And the company over the last month has started to push an app called Lemon8 towards US audiences. This app seems to be a version of Instagram that allows users to share photos. It doesn’t appear to have video support, but I am sure that’s coming. And the thing is that TikTok users can link their TikTok accounts to Lemon8. And apparently that’s happening with the biggest influences on TikTok not only linking their accounts to Lemon8, but actively promoting the app. Thus it’s no shock that the app is getting downloads as a result. In fact according to TechCrunch, Lemon8 is already in the top ten of the US version of the Apple App Store. Though I will point out that the app has been around since 2020 and is extremely popular in other parts of the world. Though the app is not yet available in Canada as I type this.

But I have to ask the question, is this really a backup plan? I ask because I’ve written about the RESTRICT act which if passed would give the US the ability to ban apps like TikTok. The way the law is written, it’s beyond a safe bet that Lemon8 would meet the same fate. So why should ByteDance bother with this? My guess is that ByteDance was originally going to go after Instagram with this app, but they appear to now shifted it to being a haven for TikTok users in the short term if TikTok were to be banned. Thus kind of forcing the US government and other governments into a game of “whack a mole”. Also, during the disastrous (for ByteDance) hearings last week on Capitol Hill, ByteDance sent an army of influencers to the hill to lobby politicians against banning TikTok. I’m also guessing that by shifting those influencers to Lemon8, it’s a means to show how powerful that community is and that Congress can’t ignore them.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out as I have to believe that it’s only a matter of time before the RESTRICT act passes congress and lands on the President’s desk. And once he signs it, then it’s game on in terms of what happens to ByteDance and all their apps.

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.