Video sharing platform TikTok is extremely popular and has many viral sensations. In the U.S., there are around 80 million active monthly users, contributing to the overall global user count of 660 million.
But for all the viral trends and challenges it creates, the Chinese-based platform is no stranger to controversy. TikTok has repeatedly been accused of mishandling user data to the point where FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr asked Google and Apple to remove it from their app stores.
But TikTok is fighting back, vowing that changes are coming. Read on for details on the most significant concerns with TikTok and whether you might be better off deleting the app.
Here’s the backstory
In 2019, TikTok was fined $5.7 million by the Federal Trade Commission over allegations ranging from COVID-19 misinformation to ISIS propaganda. A class-action lawsuit was filed, and its parent company ByteDance was fined.
Earlier this year, Carr warned about the app, claiming in a tweet that TikTok “poses an unacceptable national security risk.” Stating his case, he urged tech giants Google and Apple to make the app unavailable for download in their app stores.
He alleges that TikTok “collects search and browsing histories, keystroke patterns and biometric identifiers.” But ByteDance isn’t taking the calls for its ban lightly, saying that it has plans to strengthen the company’s data security program.
Responding to a letter from U.S. senators, ByteDance explains that “Project Texas” is a complex operation “toward compliance and a final agreement with the U.S. Government that will fully safeguard user data and U.S. national security interests.”
What you can do about it
But will the changes be enough to quell any future concerns about spying and sending U.S. data to Beijing? We advise you to delete the app for now and only start using it again when the government confirms the changes.
Here’s how to remove TikTok from your iPhone
- Touch and hold the TikTok app.
- Tap Remove App.
- Tap Delete App, then tap Delete to confirm.
Here’s how to 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.
- Then, tap the TikTok app.
- Tap Uninstall.
Even though TikTok is working towards data compliance, it isn’t there yet. That means old methods and techniques might still be prevalent at the company. There’s no guarantee that your personal information is safe.
The “Project Texas” that the response refers to is the code name for its compliance plans. This started with a cloud data center that stores all U.S. user data. In the response letter, ByteDance confirmed previous allegations that the company could access U.S. data from China.
“Employees outside the U.S., including China-based employees, can have access to TikTok U.S. user data subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols overseen by our U.S.-based security team,” it says.
Further proof that not all the systems are in place yet, the response adds that ByteDance is “evaluating and revising TikTok’s internal policies.” Until all the changes are made, it’s better to stay clear of the platform.