People should remove TikTok from their phones to protect their personal data from “hostile” threats, according to a senior Conservative MP.
Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, said users should “without hesitation” ditch the app, as she suggested the video-sharing platform is linked to China’s efforts to build a “totalitarian technological state.”
There have long been concerns surrounding TikTok about its ties to China because its parent company, ByteDance, was founded in the country, and critics have raised fears that data could be passed to the Chinese state.
In December, TikTok executive Liz Kanter insisted that the Chinese government had not asked the platform for UK user data and would not provide it if it did.
Speaking after the US shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon, Ms Kearns told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “We are being naive.
“TikTok turned over evidence to my committee where they said there was no way people working in China could access Brits’ data.
“But what we’ve seen now is that people working in China for TikTok hacked into European data so they could trace the source of a journalist.
“Because what TikTok does is give away the data that makes you most vulnerable: who you are friends with; what are your interests; what interests you have that you do not want publicly disclosed; who you are having private conversations with; the places you go
“There is a reason China has this app. There’s a reason they’re buying gay dating apps.
“Our data is a key vulnerability and China is building a totalitarian technological state on the basis of our data.
“So we have to take protecting ourselves much more seriously.
“And yes, while the balloons are a major diplomatic spike in the opportunity to have this conversation, our biggest concerns are data penetration, the route dependency that China is creating on Chinese companies, the way they are intimidating who sought refuge in the UK and around the world.
Asked if she’s advising people to remove TikTok from their phones, Ms Kearns replied: “Definitely.
“I don’t have it on my phone and it’s fascinating how often you talk to people and they say ‘I’m going home tonight to have a serious talk with my kids.’
“That vulnerability is not worth having on your phone and it is the ultimate data source for anyone with hostile endeavors.
“The fact is now it’s not just me saying ‘I’m worried, delete it’, we have evidence that TikTok has been used to trace journalists’ sources.
“Everyone should be worried about that.”