Should we ban TikTok?

It seems the clock is ticking for TikTok. TikTok is an incredibly popular social media platform with a massive user base worldwide. It has snowballed since its launch, becoming one of the most downloaded apps worldwide across iOS and Android devices.

However, TikTok has been facing several controversies and concerns in various jurisdictions, leading to calls for either total bans or restrictions. Recently, there were calls by our own National Security Council to ban those in the security sector from using TikTok due to security concerns.

The Philippines is not alone in making a case against TikTok and addressing perceived Chinese surveillance threats. Indeed, one of the significant issues surrounding TikTok is related to data privacy and security.

TikTok collects user data, and there have been concerns about where this data is stored and who has access to it. Many governments and experts have raised concerns that TikTok is collecting and potentially sharing user data with the Chinese government due to its supposed links with the Chinese ownership of ByteDance — the company behind TikTok. These concerns include collecting precise data location access and harvesting users’ personal and device information.

The extent of these issues varies from country to country, and some governments have taken action against TikTok in response to these concerns.
India banned the app and several other Chinese apps in June 2020, citing national security and data privacy concerns.

Other jurisdictions like Indonesia and Pakistan temporarily banned TikTok or imposed restrictions on its usage but later lifted the bans or eased the restrictions after discussions with TikTok’s parent company.

The ban on government use came swifter and created a bandwagon effect. Last year, Taiwan prohibited TikTok on all public sector devices.

In the US, the Trump administration attempted to impose a ban on TikTok, but the move was challenged in court. However, the legal challenge did not stop other states from taking action. Federal and state employees in 34 (out of 50) states are now prohibited from using the app on government devices.

Many European member states have banned TikTok from government devices following the advice of their national security and intelligence services.

France upped the ante when it banned all “recreational applications,” including TikTok and other apps such as Twitter, Instagram, and even the popular game Candy Crush, on government employees’ phones due to concerns about insufficient data security measures.

The decision to ban or restrict TikTok or any social media app from government devices is a matter of policy and security considerations that government authorities should carefully evaluate.

The government is on point in aiming to limit exposure to massive data collection that could potentially harm the country and its citizens. But the decision must go beyond perception and address the specific issues concerning national security, data collection, and even side issues like employee productivity loss due to disruption.

Ultimately, the decision to ban TikTok or any other app from government devices should be made based on a thorough analysis of the app’s security risks, the government’s security considerations, and the potential impact on employees’ productivity and personal freedoms.

It’s also essential to consider alternative measures, such as educating employees about responsible app usage, implementing security protocols, and ensuring agency data protection compliance.

These measures should apply within the security sector and throughout the government as part of a holistic approach to addressing privacy and security concerns.

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