Photo Credit: Google Images
And here we go! Everywhere we look these days, it seems like the big social media giants are re-writing their privacy policies to further their business interests. As much as they claim to be supporting user privacy online, their ultimate goal is to collect as much data as possible about us, so that they can monetize it later.
TikTok and user privacy
If you’re OK with a foreign company collecting a huge dossier on you (the only thing they are missing are your actual fingerprints!), then this might not seem like a big deal. But if you’re like most people, this probably strikes you as being fundamentally wrong. Why exactly does TikTok need all this information on you? At a time when companies like Apple are trying to stir up the debate over “app transparency,” there are just as many other companies trying to do all they can to grab user information and data, often in a manner that is far from transparent.
The only thing truly holding TikTok back is the fear of legal reprisals from some states. In Illinois, for example, there is now a biometric privacy law forbidding companies from doing exactly what TikTok is trying to do. And, in fact, TikTok recently paid out a $92 million fine to the state for trampling all over this law (but without actually admitting wrongdoing in the matter). Only a handful of states have similar types of biometric privacy protections in place, and there is no far-reaching federal legislation in place, so TikTok might be able to afford to play fast-and-loose with its new biometric privacy invasion.
Fears of Chinese social media under Trump
But how afraid do we really need to be of Chinese social media companies? Sure, the collection of biometric data seems creepy, but isn’t TikTok the home of cute dance videos and fun karaoke clips? Surely, we’re getting worked up over nothing. TikTok is not some sinister company with deep ties to the Chinese Communist Party, is it?
During the Trump administration, things were a lot tougher for TikTok. President Donald Trump did everything he could do to ban TikTok from the United States entirely, even going so far as to sign an executive order. And when that didn’t work as planned, he did everything possible to stop the acquisition of TikTok by a U.S.-owned company. Remember when the likes of Walmart and Microsoft were talking up a potential deal to “rescue” TikTok from the evil clutches of the Orange Man? Well, those deals fell through, and there still appears to be an ongoing review of TikTok within the U.S. government, trying to determine if TikTok and other Chinese social media giants somehow represent a national security risk.
Why isn’t Biden doing more to crack down on TikTok?
Which makes it seem so odd that the Biden administration seems to be so lackadaisical about Chinese social media companies doing business in America. Biden just revoked Trump’s executive order banning TikTok from America. And he replaced it with a new executive order, saying that the government should only be getting involved if there is a “heightened risk” from a known foreign adversary. For now, Biden is not calling TikTok a “heightened risk,” and he’s not even saying that China is really an adversary. You can’t make this stuff up. (If you buy into the whole “Beijing Biden” conspiracy, then Biden is basically in the back pocket of China, and he’s going to turn a blind eye to any Chinese business dealings in America.)
At some point, there needs to be a debate on just how much data and information companies should be allowed to collect on us. It’s bad enough that Facebook is tracking us wherever we go, but do we really want companies around the globe (and especially, from places like Russia or China) also doing it? And shouldn’t we be allowed to give our consent before they start taking our data from us automatically? Surely, Biden is being a little more relaxed in this situation than is perhaps warranted. Companies are not just taking our demographic data, they are now taking our GPS data and even our biometric data.