Delete TikTok or risk exposing your data to ‘hostile’ threats, head of foreign affairs commission warns

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

Alicia Kearns, a Conservative MP, said keeping the video-sharing platform installed exposes users’ personal data to “hostile” threats – particularly the Chinese government.

TikTokowned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has denied that such information would ever be transferred.

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

“It’s the ultimate source of data for anyone with adversarial efforts.”

When asked if people using the app should remove it, she replied, “Without a doubt.”

Why is TikTok so controversial?

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

In the UK, Europe and even more in the US, where an absolute prohibition has been mootedconcerns have been raised that this data could be accessed by the company and given to Chinese officials.

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

“Everyone should be concerned about that,” Ms Kearns said.

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

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

But Ms Kearns told Sky News “we are naive” and “need to get a lot more serious about protecting ourselves”.

Does TikTok really collect my data?

TikTok knows things like your IP address, what other apps you have on your phone, and of course any login information you provide, such as an email address and date of birth.

TikTok is required to ask for permission to access location data and your contacts, but unlike others it’s much more reluctant to take no and will regularly ask you if you haven’t.

What the app learns about users through their data and viewing habits powers the notoriously effective algorithm that generates an endlessly curated feed of short videos tailored to their interests.

It has helped make the app a global cultural behemoth, with new online trends appearing regularly among its growing number of users.

Read more:
The Growing Trend of ‘Quitting Quietly’
TikTok’s ‘lucky girl syndrome’ explained
What is “stopping loud” and “inflicting 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.

Democrats and Republicans unveiled bipartisan legislation last year that would ban TikTok in the US, and the US Foreign Affairs Committee will vote on it later this month.

TikTok chief Shou Zi Chew will also testify before the US Energy and Trade Commission in March.

Joe Biden has not indicated whether he would rather support a blanket ban, a nuclear option attempt by former President Donald Trumpbut has commissioned a government review of foreign-owned apps.

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