Delete TikTok or risk your data being exposed to ‘hostile’ threats, foreign affairs committee head warns

People have been urged to remove TikTok from their phones, with the chairman of Britain’s foreign affairs committee warning that “we are being naive” about the threat posed by the app.

Alicia Kearns, a Conservative MP, said keeping the video-sharing platform installed left users’ personal data exposed to “hostile” threats, specifically from the Chinese government.

Tik Tokwhich is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has denied that any such information would ever be released.

But Ms Kearns told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “It’s not worth having that vulnerability in your phone.

“It’s the ultimate data source for anyone with hostile endeavors.”

When asked if people who use the app should delete it, he replied: “Definitely.”

Why is TikTok so controversial?

While TikTok is hugely popular, especially among teens, and has more than a billion users worldwide, it’s coming under increasing scrutiny for the amount of information it collects from people’s phones.

In the UK, Europe, and even more so in the US, where a total ban has been proposedConcerns have been raised that the company could access this data and hand it over to Chinese officials.

It comes after the revelation that ByteDance employees had used TikTok data in an attempt to track down several Western journalists and discover their sources. An update to the app’s privacy policy also revealed that some employees abroad could access user data under specific circumstances.

“Everybody should be worried about that,” Ms Kearns said.

TikTok has consistently rejected claims against it, with executive Liz Kanter telling Ms Kearn’s committee in December that China had not asked the platform for UK user data and would not provide it if it did.

In the USA, where TikTok has been sued for alleged privacy violationsthe company has insisted that its operation is independent from ByteDance and that users are safe.

But Ms Kearns told Sky News “we are being naive” and “we need to take protecting ourselves much more seriously.”

Does TikTok really collect my data?

TikTok knows things like your IP address, what other apps you have on your phone, and obviously any registration information you provide, like an email address and birthday.

TikTok is required to request permission to access location data and your contacts, but unlike others, it’s much more reluctant to take no for an answer and will regularly let you know if it hasn’t.

Inside the app, what it learns about users through their data and viewing habits powers the remarkably efficient algorithm that generates an endless supply of short videos tailored to their interests.

He has helped turn the app into a global cultural giant, with new online trends popping up regularly among its growing number of users.

Read more:
The growing trend of ‘silent quitting’
TikTok’s ‘lucky girl syndrome’ explained
What is ‘quit out loud’ and ‘apply rage’?

Despite its popularity, TikTok faces the prospect of a ban in the US, where it has already been blocked in some schools, workplaces, and on the devices of politicians in Congress.

Last year, the Democrats and Republicans unveiled bipartisan legislation that would ban TikTok in the US, and the US foreign affairs committee itself will vote on it later this month.

TikTok chief Shou Zi Chew will also testify before the US Committee on Energy and Commerce in March.

Joe Biden has not indicated whether he would support an outright ban, a previously nuclear option attempt by former President Donald Trumpbut ordered a government review of foreign ownership applications.

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