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Information safety: why the TikTok app is so worrying

Jean-Luc Mélenchon has enjoyable whereas mocking Emmanuel Macron. The president makes use of it to congratulate the brand new graduates. However in the US and India, we wish to block it. TikTok, recognized to be extremely popular with younger individuals with its brief musical and humorous movies, is within the crosshairs of many international locations and establishments.

The appliance, owned by the Chinese language firm ByteDance, is accused of not being clear about the usage of its customers' information. And to submit them to the Chinese language authorities for a nonetheless imprecise use.

Per week in the past, Donald Trump stated he was contemplating a ban on the app, with out giving causes. However the context of the extraordinary tensions between Washington and Beijing, on the backdrop of commerce and Covid-19, and the latest humiliation inflicted on Trump by Okay-pop followers and younger individuals of TikTok, throughout a gathering in Florida, appear have satisfied the president and his entourage of the hazard of the platform. Earlier than him, the US Division of Protection had already suggested its personnel to take away the applying from their gadgets.

Fears are additionally shared in India, which on the finish of June introduced the ban on the nation's utility, like 58 different Chinese language functions. Once more, the geopolitical context performs out: tensions had simply re-emerged between Beijing and New Delhi, after a lethal conflict between Indian troopers and Chinese language troopers within the Himalayas.

"A bond of subordination with China"

Not too long ago, additionally it is Amazon that has visibly apprehensive in regards to the security of customers of the app. On Friday, a number of American media relayed the decision made by the large of on-line commerce to its staff, who requested them to take away the applying from their telephones for "safety" questions. Amazon, a serious advertiser on TikTok, nevertheless, rapidly withdrew its request, citing a "sending error".

However the harm is finished. It confirms an actual concern about the usage of information to which TikTok, whose mum or dad firm relies in Beijing, has entry. "There’s a hyperlink of subordination between the businesses and the Chinese language authorities, because the GAFAM (Google, Amazon, Fb, Apple, Microsoft, and the digital giants, Editor's observe) might work with the American authorities", assures Fabrice Epelboin , instructor at Sciences Po and digital specialist, at Parisien.

Using information – generally not completely clear – is certainly a typical apply on a big a part of social networks, principally based mostly in the US. Besides that "in China, corporations are topic to the State, whereas in the US, there’s the rule of legislation. If a GAFAM believes that there are abusive practices, it will probably have recourse to the legislation, ”provides Fabrice Epelboin.

Harmful micro-targeting

Tough to know exactly what information is utilized by TikTok and for what function. The sector is huge. For White Home adviser Peter Navarro, the applying sends information "to servers in China, on to the Chinese language army, the Chinese language Communist Social gathering, and (official) companies that wish to steal our mental property". For a gaggle of American dad and mom, who just lately launched a category motion in opposition to ByteDance, the applying would use the faces of its customers – minors included – and retailer them with out their settlement for makes use of nonetheless undefined.

The factitious intelligence of the applying, which makes it potential to determine the profile of the person and to supply him with personalised content material, can also be a hazard issue, considers Fabrice Epelboin. “The micro-targeting capabilities for propaganda are vital. It was already accomplished with Fb, for promoting after which politically, ”he explains.

Clearly: if the applying can know what you want, what you view or purchase on-line, it will probably additionally determine your political profile, and be used to ship you data aimed toward manipulating you. That is what occurred on Fb, in the US, in the course of the Cambridge Analytica episode, the place divisive content material disseminated to recognized audiences would have clearly favored the election of Donald Trump as head of the US in 2016 .

"We by no means transmitted information"

What give concepts to the Chinese language Communist Social gathering? Maybe, stated Fabrice Epelboin. However it’s going to take time. "The Chinese language don’t have any historical past of intervention within the subject of French public opinion, they haven’t tried something at Cambridge Analytica," reassures Fabrice Epelboin. “They don’t have the identical intervention capability at the moment. Clearly, TikTok isn’t going to overturn the 2022 election in France, for instance. It's not the equal of Fb in 2016, ”he says.

Contacted, the applying, it denies any collaboration with the Chinese language authorities. “Allow us to be very clear on the topic. TikTok is a global firm current in 150 international locations and never in China. We’ve by no means transmitted person information to the Chinese language authorities and we might by no means achieve this. We strictly apply the principles regarding the international locations by which we function, "she explains to the Parisian, making the distinction between TikTok, the worldwide model of the applying, and Douyin, its equal accessible in China, topic to the principles of Social gathering censorship. "The information of our customers (exterior of China, Editor's observe) is saved in the US and Singapore," provides the applying.

The priority stays there, nevertheless, and spreads to Europe. In mid-June, the European Parliament additionally introduced the launch of a taskforce to higher perceive TikTok's practices with regard to the usage of person information.