According to a senior Conservative MP, people should remove TikTok from their phones to protect their personal data from “hostile” threats.
Alicia Kearns, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said users should “without question” remove the app as she suggested the video-sharing platform is linked to China’s efforts to create a “technological totalitarian state” on build.
Concerns have long surrounded TikTok about its ties to China since its parent company, ByteDance, was founded in the country, and critics have feared that data could be passed on to the Chinese state.
In December, TikTok director Liz Kanter insisted that the platform has not been asked for UK user data by the Chinese government and would not provide it if it were.
After the United States shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon, Ms Kearns told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “We are naive.
“TikTok gave evidence to my committee saying it was impossible for individuals working in China to access Britons’ data.
“But what we have now seen is that people working for TikTok in China have hacked into European data to track down the source of a journalist.
“Because what TikTok does is it gives away the data that makes you most vulnerable: who are you friends with; what are your interests; what are the interests you have that you may not wish to disclose; who you have private conversations with; the locations you go to.
“There is a reason why China has this app. There’s a reason they buy up gay dating apps.
“Our data is a major vulnerability and China is building a tech totalitarian state on our data.
“So we need to get much more serious about protecting ourselves.
And yes, while balloons are a major diplomatic spike in the opportunity to have this conversation, our bigger concerns are the data penetration, the path China’s reliance on Chinese companies, the way they intimidate those who have taken refuge in the UK and the rest of the world.”
When asked if she advises people to remove TikTok from their phones, Ms Kearns replied: “Without a doubt.
“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’.
“It’s not worth having that vulnerability on your phone and it’s the ultimate source of data for anyone with hostile efforts.
“Fact is, now that I’m not just saying ‘I’m worried, delete it’, we have evidence that TikTok has been used to track down sources for journalists.
“Everyone should be concerned about that.”
A TikTok spokesperson said: “TikTok is used by millions of people in the UK and we want to make it clear that they can trust us with their data.
“We are taking steps such as storing UK user data in our data center operations in Ireland starting this year; further reduce employee access to data; and minimizing data flows outside Europe.
“We have written to Ms. Kearns on a number of occasions to ensure she has all the facts and information and we look forward to working constructively with her on these important issues in the near future.”