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Security & privacy

Is TikTok banned? Everything you need to know to protect yourself

TikTok has been under scrutiny for its dangerous privacy practices since its inception, and things are reaching a boiling point.

Rumors of a domestic ban on the China-based video-hosting service have been swirling, and there is some evidence to back them up. Here’s what you need to know.

US government vs. TikTok

Earlier this month, Congress advanced a bill to give President Biden the power to ban TikTok on national security grounds. The Chinese-owned social media platform’s parent company ByteDance is based in Beijing and is required by Chinese law to give the government access to collected data.

TikTok collects search and browsing history, facial ID, voice prints, texts, location and photos. It’s all in black and white as part of TikTok’s privacy policy.

Reuters reports that nine Republicans and nine Democrats have signed on to the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act so far.

There are an estimated 100 million TikTok users in the U.S. alone.

The ban has already started for some sectors of the government

As of now, nearly half our country’s states have a full or partial ban on the use of TikTok by government officials:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota 
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia 
  • Wisconsin

TikTok bans are nothing new here or abroad:

  • Members of the U.S. military have been banned from using TikTok on military-issued devices for some time.
  • In February, Canada announced it was banning TikTok on government mobile devices. The U.K., New Zealand, Belgium, Taiwan, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan have done the same.
  • News agencies like the BBC have instructed employees to delete TikTok from their devices. In December, Forbes reported that several ByteDance employees had been fired for spying on journalists.

Biden administration wants TikTok out of Chinese hands

Just last week, a spokesperson for TikTok told Reuters that the Biden administration threatened a nationwide ban unless the Chinese owners sell their shares in the company.

Here’s the thing about that. Do you think that passing TikTok along to another group would really change things? The new owners will still have access to all the data they collect on you, such as your location, apps on your phone, face ID, voiceprint, usage patterns and more.

It doesn’t mean everything will be OK because it’s sold to an American company. For example, here’s a scary sampling of what Google knows about you. While at it, check out 10 Facebook privacy settings you should change right now.

Don’t use TikTok? That doesn’t necessarily make you safe

A report from cybersecurity company Feroot shared with ABC News states that TikTok has your data even if you’ve never used the app. And get this: deleting the app doesn’t make you completely safe.

Many Big Tech companies like Meta, Microsoft and Google use pieces of code called pixels, which website developers add to their sites to track users. TikTok is no exception, with pixels spread out across retail, e-commerce, travel, tech and government sites.

There’s really no way to know which websites are using pixels, so as always, be careful with any information you share.

This isn’t the only way your information can be shared with social media sites you don’t use. When you create an account with Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you’re asked if you’d like to sync your contacts to find friends, family and business associates more easily. Here’s why you should stop doing that right now.

What you can do about it

Let’s make it easy. Stop using TikTok right now. While your information has already been collected, you can at least stop it from going any further. To quote Kim, “you’re carrying around your very own Chinese spy balloon.”

The time to get rid of Tiktok is past due. Here’s how:

Remove TikTok from your iPhone

  • Touch and hold the TikTok app.
  • Tap Remove App.
  • Tap Delete App, then tap Delete to confirm.

Remove TikTok from your Android phone

  • Open the Google Play app.
  • At the top right, tap the Profile icon.
  • Tap Manage apps & devices and then Manage.
  • Tap the TikTok app.
  • Tap Uninstall.

Keep reading

This nasty TikTok scam goes after grieving families

Here are the five social media companies tracking you the most

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