ABC TikTok story August 2020

Is TikTok a phantom menace?

Is the US government right to outlaw TikTok because it might share data with a foreign power, or is the security threat overstated? News outlets interviewed Still Water faculty to get a different take on a proposed ban on the popular social media app.

TikTok is the most downloaded app since 2018, achieving over a billion downloads in only two years. Yet its ownership by a Chinese company led the Trump administration to invoke national emergency powers to ban the app unless it were to be purchased by a US company.

ABC/Channel 7 logoApart from the legal hurdles it would likely face, Still Water Co-director Jon Ippolito questions the rationale for a ban on this app, which is mostly used for sharing homemade music videos. He argues in an interview on 11 August with Rachel Mann of ABC Bangor “it’s not clear to me how the Chinese government would use that information to nefarious ends.”

In a separate news story on the 14th with Alex Haskell of NBC/News Center Maine, Ippolito explains that “US-based apps like Facebook, Instagram, and the like are already using user data. Kids can use something called a Virtual Private Network to route around American censorship and download the app anyway.”

News Center Maine logoSince teens could simply use VPNs to circumvent such a ban, Ippolito recommends applying the same privacy precautions to all data-mining apps: “Not giving away your real name or location, using an email address that’s throwaway…these are all strategies that are useful whether it’s a Chinese or American app.”

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