Tensions between US and the video-sharing app TikTok can affect China’s tech domination, according to a cybersecurity expert.
“It’s not clear to me that there is a huge security risk,” Adam Segal, director of the digital and cyberspace policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, said during an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.” He believes that China can already access large amounts of US citizens’ data through hacks held against government agencies and firms like credit ratings agency Equifax and others.
“The risk on propaganda and influence might be more but I think the larger context is … the Trump administration really wants to push back on China’s rise as a tech competitor to the United States,” Segal noted.
“I think there are legitimate concerns there, even if the law doesn’t say that,” Segal said, explaining that intelligence services in China can work around the law and get access to the information. He said there may be reasons for the U.S. to ask federal employees, Defense department officials and others working in sensitive jobs to keep the app off their phones.
“But, again, the data of 15-year-olds who are dancing around doesn’t have very clear national security implications.”
Accusations against TikTok
TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, became popular among younger users over the years. However, it has been facing controversies nowadays.
TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer was accused of being an “American puppet” for working for a Chinese-owned social media app by White House trade advisor Peter Navarro.
Navarro tagged Mayer as an “American puppet,” claiming that the strategy of putting a US citizen as head of the company is “not going to work.”
“If TikTok, if it separates as an American company, that doesn’t help us because … we’re going to have to give China billions of dollars for the privilege of having TikTok operate on US soil,” Navarro said.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said he has the authority to ban TikTok from the US while talking to reporters on Air Force One during the flight back to Washington.
“As far as TikTok is concerned we’re banning them from the United States,” the president said, labeling the action as “severance.”
He did not mention whether he will implement it through an executive order, or another process, such as a designation, the NBC News states.
“Well, I have that authority. I can do it with an executive order or that,” Trump said.
Meanwhile, US general manager of TikTok Vanessa Pappas said the Chinese-owned video-sharing app is “here for the long run”, arguing that the company’s staff were building “the safest app”.
Pappas added that TikTok has received an “outpouring of support” for the app, and expressed her gratitude towards the “millions of Americans” who used it every day. “We’re not planning on going anywhere,” she said.
Microsoft recently confirmed that it held talks with ByteDance about acquiring its social app TikTok in the US. According to Microsoft, it will continue working with the US government on a deal and plans to finalize the talks by September 15.