TikTok APP that took Gibraltar by storm caught spying – Again

Gibraltarians weren’t too aware of this video-sharing APP before The Lockdown; and the Gibraltar Chronicle’s coverage of TikTok helped bring the message to the general public – TikTok was latest tech app “to entertain” The Rock during The Lockdown.

After learning what Apps are all about, the real message should be:

Tick-Tock Time to Ditch Your Dummies-Smart-phones.

Let’s take a look at what was reported in Gibraltar about TikTok –

On April 2, GBC posted a Umee TikTok challenge via GBC:

Here is the link: facebook.com/gbc.gi/posts/1388114381390176

“Our colleagues at Radio Gibraltar are up for the challenge! ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS DOWNLOAD THE APP and get creative! We want the whole community to take part!

Who doesn't love air drumming to Phil Collins?! Please remember to share your TikTok videos with us! #StayAtHomeStaySafe

What you might not have realized is that you were sharing more than your video with Radio Gibraltar. You were sharing your clipboard/pasteboard with TikTok every time you opened the APP. You may have been at home, but your information wasn’t necessarily safe.

Locally, it was brought to you by Gibraltar’s Visual Agency (Visu.Al):

"TikTok Gibraltar. Are You Ready?! We’re kick starting a TikTok Gibraltar Takeover!"


What is TikTok

TikTok is a Chinese social networking service built around short video clips. Developed and owned by ByteDance which is based in Beijing, it is very popular amongst young people and children.

On April 17, The Chronicle reported the Press Association’s news that “TikTok has introduced a minimum age requirement of 16 to use its direct messaging feature.”

By April 27, The Gibraltar Chronicle essentially gave it a thumbs-up:

Gibraltarians in lockdown flock to TikTok

You might think twice before you allow the next-new thing to takeover.

April wasn’t the first time it was mentioned by The Gibraltar Chronicle – reported the Press Association’s Announcement back in January:

From Libra to TikTok: Ones to watch in tech for 2020

"TikTok has become one of the most popular new apps on the scene, although 2019 was not without its controversies, with concerns over features such as paid virtual gifts.”

You’ll notice this article disclosed that the U.S. was questioning TikTok.

"The Beijing-owned platform is reportedly the subject of a national security review in the US, while the UK data regulator, the Information Commissioner's Office, is expected to conclude its own investigation in the coming months."

This is because in December 2019, the U.S. Navy raised flags about TikTok and banned it.

US Navy bans TikTok from mobile devices saying it's a cybersecurity threat

Read also:

TikTok’s national security scrutiny tightens as US Navy reportedly bans popular social app:

TikTok may be the fastest-growing social network in the history of the Internet, but it is also quickly becoming the fastest-growing security threat and thorn in the side of U.S. China hawks.

The latest, according to a notice published by the U.S. Navy this past week and reported on by Reuters and the South China Morning Post, is that TikTok will no longer be allowed to be installed on service members’ devices , or they may face expulsion from the military service’s intranet.

Recently, Congress, led by Missouri senator Josh Hawley, demanded a national security review of TikTok and its Sequoia-backed parent company ByteDance, along with other tech companies that may share data with foreign governments like China.

Well, the UK data regulator must have decided it was safe because by April it was the APP “to have” in Gibraltar to stay connected.

Why did the UK decide it was safe?

Notice that TikTok made a major donation to UK’s Royal College of Nursing Foundation, which was announced on the same day as the age requirement notification.

Did they come to some kind of understanding that children would be off-limits in a DEAL that saw the UK “rewarded” with a hefty donation to Royal College of Nursing Foundation?

Is this all that is needed for a foreign-entity to make its way into the UK or Gibraltar market? Money.

Gibraltar Chronicle made sure to bring you the news of TikTok’s so-called good deed:

TikTok donates £5m to Royal College of Nursing Foundation

It came as the video-sharing platform revealed that TikTok videos celebrating NHS and other healthcare workers reached 330 million in one month, a 5,000% increase on four weeks ago, according to the app.

This all makes one wonder if GHA received any of those funds. And what other funds did they receive from other corporations in the name of “Covid”?

Here is the Recent News that TikTok Was Caught Spying –

TikTok Caught Spying What We Type In Other Apps… TWICE!


Beyond their obvious desire to grow their service at the expense of the danger to real people, there have been cybersecurity and privacy concerns about TikTok.

In a space of just four months, TikTok has been caught spying on what we type in OTHER APPS… not once, but TWICE. Take a look at this video exposé… (embedded in the article)

In the video above, you can see how TikTok immediately asked to read all text stored in the pasteboard , whenever it is launched.

TikTok was just one of the many apps that they found to be spying on what we type. Here were the apps they confirmed were spying on the pasteboard/clipboard.

The article gave a list of other APPS caught spying including news, games, social and other type apps.


1. China’s TikTok Caught Spying on Millions of iPhone Users:

2. Apple Caught China-owned TikTok Spying on Million of Iphone Users:

3. Apple Suddenly Catches TikTok Secretly Spying...:

Again, TikTok isn’t the only App that spies:

TikTok is by no means the only culprit. Other apps have also accessed the clipboard on iPhone and iPad, and the following clip shows several others, including The New York Times, Google News, AccuWeather, Overstock, and others.

Of course, App developers always have their excuses why data breaches happened. But basically, it boils down to they got caught. :triangular_flag_on_post:

It’s not just the U.S. raising red flags, India recently banned TikTok, along with 58 other Chinese Apps.

Now, TikTok in a PR move is trying to distance itself from Beijing.

Seriously! Is that going to work? These public-relations tactics are getting too common-place. What will be their next excuse?

Tick-Tock Time to Delete the APP.

Do your own research to every APP you have. You cannot leave it up to BigTech like Apple and Google; or the tech-happy media; or the tech-savvy government to protect your information.

It’s on you to protect yourself and your family from this invasion.

This article helps put a few things in perspective:

While Visu.AL does provide news on the Indian Ban of TikTok in its Social issues sections, so far news about TikTok spying has not been featured in the Gibraltar Chronicle. Perhaps, the pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Government of Gibraltar has an “understanding” backed by Chinese investments, that it will not criticize Chinese products, services, or practices.

APPly Logic.

Do you trust all the assurances given by BigTech, BigGov and even BigPoliticians – when they say/lie "problems have been resolved", "its for the collective good", and so on?

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Although it is not supposed to censor outside of China, TikTok censors UK Muslim Teen.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words (or official statements).

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TikTok has quietly been developing DEEPFAKE TECHNOLOGY that enables users to swap their faces onto people in curated videos

"Chinese social media upstart, TikTok and its counterpart Douyin are turning to technology commonly used for creating deepfakes to power a yet-to-be-released feature.

TikTok may be mulling the use of deepfake technology that lets users scan their face and then swap it onto a video. The face swapping feature, while similar to those long-used by other social media platforms like Snapchat, differs in its ability to realistically superimpose faces on videos according to TechCrunch.

'Face Swap' reportedly works by taking a biometric scan of a users' face from multiple angles - similar to the process of setting up a facial recognition app like Apple's Face ID - and then lets users choose videos that they want to insert their face onto.

US officials have warned that TikTok poses a national security threat due to its ties with the Chinese government. In particular, they warn that TikTok may be shipping data on users to the Chinese government.

TechCrunch reports that representatives for TikTok have already denied that the feature will be rolled out despite fragments of the code being found inside the app."

It’s Getting Harder to Spot a Deep Fake Video:

So why would China want to push all this facial recognition in their apps? What could go wrong? How could it be used for Evil? The

Technocrats know why, what and how. Could DeepFake be used as evidence in court? Could it be used to blackmail?

How much much does TikTok and its Cloud have on Gibraltar? Face it, the public is being conned into thinking it's all about "their entertainment" and that it's all just "fun and games".


Well what do you know... this makes the news

China: TikTok will no longer operate in Hong Kong due to national security law

Hong Kong police no longer have to get a court order to remove internet posts they claim "endanger national security".

TikTok has said it will no longer operate in Hong Kong after China's new national security law demanded it hand over user data.

Technology giants including Google, Twitter and Facebook have also said they will deny requests for user data from Hong Kong law enforcement while they examine the implications of the new legislation.

They are trying to distance themselves from Beijing and the CCP. Is it going to work to "convince" users TikTok will protect their data? Seriously.

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More TikTok News:

Chinese State Media Undermines TikTok PR with Nationalist Pride for ‘Entertainment App’

The TikTok messaging platform has been frantically trying to convince the rest of the world that it is not a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) company, but rather a fully private and independent company that just happens to be headquartered in Beijing. :triangular_flag_on_post:

The CCP recently ran a state media editorial brimming with nationalist pride for the popular “Chinese short-video sharing app.”

China’s state-run Global Times lauded TikTok’s popularity, referred to ByteDance as “Chinese companies” several times, and amusingly insisting that American proposals to ban the app as a security threat are totally different from China’s bans on most American Big Tech companies.


User data collected through apps like TikTok are used to build China’s artificial intelligence, noted Chang. We should be chirping out these Chinese apps. This is really important because they spy, so they’re taking data. That data will be fed into China’s artificial intelligence systems, said Gordon Chang.

“Once you stop TikTok, you reduce the amount of data going into China. That’s a really important thing for us,” Chang added.

TikTok settled a federal lawsuit for $5.7 million in 2019 over accusations over violating children’s privacy laws.

Watch also: "Chinese Propaganda is RAMPANT on TikTok" to see how it uses soft propaganda to influence views and opinions around the world about China.

{The young have always been a target audience for Communists. Starting young allows them to mold children's thoughts and beliefs. The young around the world are also targets for their Marxist ideology.}

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It's important to understand the APPs you put on your smartphone – all of them. Know the risks.

Is TikTok a data collection service that disquises itself as social media. A leak was found that it was publishing primary and secondary email addresses, real names, birthdays, and more. They claim TikTok is using as many APIs as possible to gather information about its users. APIs are tools that grant access to features and information on users smartphone.

What could possibly be a risk:

Phone hardware (cpu type, number of course, hardware ids, screen dimensions, dpi, memory usages, disk space, etc),

Information about other apps stored on your phone, network information including your IP address, MAC address, WiFi Access Point Information, whether or not your phone is jail broken and even GPS data information that refreshes every 30 seconds.

“I know one thing. I and many others feel hopeless when it comes to restricting the data smartphone APPs can access." – said TechVision narrator of this video.

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In January 8, 2020 –

Israel-based security research firm Check Point says it found multiple severe loopholes within short-form video app, TikTok that could have potentially allowed hackers to take over users’ accounts, access their private data, and upload videos on their behalf. The vulnerability made it possible for intruders to masquerade as TikTok and send official text messages with malicious links.

Or see this related article:

Again, hacking and cybersecurity will always be associated with information technology:

API hacking is, unfortunately, part of the modern API landscape. Ultimately, API security is always going to be a game of cat and mouse.

What is API?

An application programming interface ( API ) is a computing interface which defines interactions between multiple software intermediaries. It defines the kinds of calls or requests that can be made, how to make them, the data formats that should be used, the conventions to follow, etc. It can also provide extension mechanisms so that users can extend existing functionality in various ways and to varying degrees.

An example of an API is Apple and Google's API used by different entities around the world like Gibraltar for their contact-tracing app, click on this title:

Apple and Google's COVID-19 contact tracing tech is ready

Apple and Google are releasing their COVID-19 contact tracing technology to public health agencies (PHAs) around the world. So far, 22 countries on five continents have requested the API, which will allow PHAs to develop their own contact tracing apps.

Apple and Google have been collaborating on the Exposure Notifications System API for several weeks. As planned, the API will use Bluetooth to exchange keys between phones.

Apple and Google expect more countries to request the API in the coming weeks, and the World Health Organization (WHO) said it will release a contact tracing app for countries that don’t make their own. The WHO may use the Apple-Google tech.

The companies point out that the technology they've built is not an app. "Rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better," the companies said.

Contact Tracing and what it can eventually morph into, and what everyone is getting used to, is part of a global plan. If you want to see what the technocrats model looks like, look at how China uses it.

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The threat of a U.S. ban on TikTok has now ratcheted up, with the U.S. National Security Adviser alleging that the video platform “is getting facial recognition” on millions of Americans as well as mapping their relationships, and then sending all of this “intimate data” back to China for processing. “So, China is going to know everything about you, they're going to have biometrics on you,” Robert O’Brien warned in a July 14 interview on Fox News Radio. “You have to be very careful who you give such personal information to.”


“As evidence, TikTok's privacy policy for US residents is upfront about the vast quantity of user data it collects and shares with the CCP, the lawmakers said.

The company is also required under Chinese laws to provide seats on its board of directors to CCP officials, further cementing the authoritarian government's role in setting these policies, the letter said.”

The silent war...

Teens against Trump Or CCP against Trump?

Getting people to mobilize is difficult. Getting teens to mobilize is even more difficult. So are we to believe scores of teenagers, as TikTok users, mobilized to troll :arrow_left: Trump? The teenagers blindly did what their false idols told them to do – messing with Trump’s campaign and rating his campaign APP. If China is using TikTok to infiltrate U.S. Teens, then this would be a perfect example of how China is fighting back behind the scenes, but doesn’t China fund the Democratic party in the U.S.? Why is Joe Biden called “China Joe :arrow_left:”?. And if you question why would China want all this information on Western people, then you need to question your own understanding of what they plan to do. They plan to invade the West; and those in the West will be treated like Uighur Muslims and dissidents. For decades they have invaded the West through the market system and money – and using the BRI to acquire property and more. It’s only a matter of time…

War is coming – which always follows economic collapse. Much of the news is theatre – West vs East. The two witnesses (UK and the US) will eventually side together against China; which is why the UK is now banning :arrow_left: Huawei. This is probably a set-back for the CCP and their plans for the United Kingdom.

:arrow_right: World War 3: The Second of its Three Woes/Phases


And of course the Communist Chinese Party want to also keep tabs on their own through social media:

"The long arm of the CCP, as seen by exerpts in the article:
“Let me tell you: You need to remember you are a citizen of the People’s Republic of China,” the policeman said. “You are not in the country, but remember, if China wasn’t great and strong, you would have no status … You are still governed by the law of China, do you understand?”

“I can’t go back. If I go back, I will be in prison,” she said."

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TikTok isn't the only one who spies on users.

Facebook and Twitter have been doing it for years. Here some recent news about these two –

While humans can’t hear the sound, smartphones can, and as such, a special signal will be embedded into the sound, which will tell any smartphone that hears it – with the Facebook app installed – to start recording.

Using this technology, Facebook can find out what ads people are watching, so they can serve more of those ads to them.

The sinister part about this is how Facebook can pitch this in a way that seems better for the end-user.

Selling evil as good. You cannot serve two masters – The market beast-system and God.

POLICE STATE incoming.

Twitter was breached:

Leaked screenshots of Twitter’s internal systems indicate that the company keeps “blacklists” for users it deems undesirable, according to multiple reports

The alleged screencaps emerged hours after the largest hack in Twitter’s history, sweeping up billionaires, celebrities, politicians and corporations in what appeared to be a far-reaching cryptocurrency scam. While Twitter remained largely mum on the incident throughout most of Wednesday, later in the evening the company confirmed that its internal systems were indeed targeted in the massive breach, allowing the hackers to hijack a large number of accounts simultaneously through an employees-only control panel – presumably the same one featured in the screenshots.

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“Smart” phones can do odd things. It may be a good idea to cover the camera lenses. I have experienced the phone appearing to take a picture (quick flash) when turned on, but no picture stored in the photo gallery. Laptops have done the same. The camera turns on without any prompting; possibly the same with the built-in microphones. Privacy means different things to different people!

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Microsoft confirms talks to buy TikTok in U.S., aims to finish deal by Sept. 15


Interesting video from this man whose primary purpose appears to be exposing the (extremely) evil Chinese Communist Party. He has numerous videos about Artificial Intelligence, 5G and beyond and its attempted control over the very soul of humanity. Being "interconnected" can be used for the good, but is being used as we know for evil purposes. The basic premise in his videos usually leads back to exposing the evil within the Chinese Communist Party (which is the right thing to do). In this video, he talks about Tik Tok. Video is from mid-July 2020 and it is about 9 minutes long.

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Nigel Inkster, the former director of operations and intelligence for the British Secret Intelligence Service, said that TikTok could serve as an entry point to access the data prominent figures in the United Kingdom if family members are on the same WiFi network.

The former MI6 cheif said that short of a ban on the Chinese-owned short-form video app, it will be difficult to prevent family members of government ministers and politicians from downloading TikTok.

Despite TikTok’s claims, as a Chinese-owned company they are required by Chinese law to “support, assist, and cooperate” intelligence services in the communist state when commanded.

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Thank-you @NancyDrewberry for the post on Tik Tok, DANGERS, now lets take a closer look at what Kill Gates is up to, evil working overtime.

Bill (Kill)Gates Backs $1 Billion Plan to Blanket Earth in Video Surveillance Satellites
March 24, 2020 at 5:26 pm

Please see link for more, https://returntonow.net/2020/03/24/bill-gates-backs-1-billion-plan-to-blanket-earth-in-video-surveillance-satellites/?fbclid=IwAR1NbLzHi1LaSVQgUmlW3DPJy92do8uEoTqj-N20XqeP06p_UZ7anvpDB8A

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is bankrolling a company that plans on launching a $1 billion network of satellites to provide live-streaming coverage of almost “corner” of the earth.

EarthNow plans on launching 500 plus satellites into our atmosphere, providing its users with near instantaneous video feedback with only one second of delay.


While this may sound like something from a futuristic sci-fi movie, it is very much a real thing.

All a customer of the surveillance network would have to do is flip on their smart phone or tablet to get instant, live access to what’s going on in any part of the world.

Users can watch the weather, detect forest fires the moment they start, watch volcanoes the instant they start to erupt and track the migration of large whales, the company boasts.

While that all sounds benevolent enough, users can also “observe conflict zones and respond immediately when crises arise, assist the media in telling stories from around the world, catch illegal fishing ships in the act, and instantly create “living” 3D models of a town or city, even in remote locations.”

The obvious big question is who are the “users” of this technology. According to Wikipedia , the co People can be groomed to sex traffic themselves. This is outrageously very foolish to do this kind of thing.mpany expects its initial customers to include “governments and large enterprises.”

EarthNow founder Russel Hannigan says his company’s simple objective is to “connect people visually with the Earth in real time.”

Not only is Kill Gates backing the project, but so too are tech giants Softbank, Airbus and Greg Wyler.

The company expects a billion in funding but won’t disclose the value of what’s been contributed. Hannigan said the funding would cover the planning stage of the product.

EarthNow isn’t the only one receiving money for out-of-this-world technologies. Since 2017, $2.9 billion has been allocated from 67 equity funds to further advance our exploration of space.

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TikTok, the App Super Popular With Kids, Has a Nudes Problem


TikTok is seen as being child-friendly. But a section of the social media platform is dedicated to hunting for nude images from its underage users.

A STRONG warning: People can be groomed to sex traffic themselves. This is outrageously very foolish to do this kind of thing.

*This week, the New York Times described it as “the only good app,” it was named as one of the Google Play Store’s most “fun” apps, and the Verge recently called it “joyful.*”

There was found a vibrant community of users on TikTok who appear to be soliciting explicit images of boys and girls, and some young users have complained on the platform about other people repeatedly asking them for nudes.

“If you have a :eggplant: trade with me on snap chat dm me and i go live everyday,” the bio of another account named “lets trade boys” reads.

Users who appear to be children mention that people continually ask them for nude images. The creator of one of those videos imply they are 13 years old.

These accounts are not isolated. Some have hundreds of fans, TikTok’s equivalent of followers. Some of the accounts that explicitly ask for nude images also follow a slew of normal accounts that appear to be run by young children or teenagers.

@NewSong Thank-you for the short, very informative video about Tik Tok, owned by the Chinese Government, The Chinese Communist Party. There are back doors collecting information on this App, sending all of your kids facial recognition, sound reconstitution, who they are and who they are kin to back to China. They are using all of this to make sex videos and promote child trafficking. People can be groomed to sex traffic themselves. This is outrageously very foolish to do this kind of thing.

Please see more on what the App is really being used for in this book and below.


Last week, President Trump seriously escalated his threats toward the social media app TikTok, which he has accused of posing a threat to national security. If the Chinese-owned app doesn’t sell to an American company in 45 days, it will effectively be banned in the US.

You may be wondering how an app that’s best known as a place where teenagers post viral lip-syncing videos poses a national security threat. That largely comes down to the fact that TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance. The US government worries the app could be used not only to surveil US users but to censor political speech and spread misinformation that could hurt democracy in the US.

Many of TikTok’s users and creators haven’t been deterred by government warnings. Take Laura Lee Watts, who posts skin care and makeup reviews on the app and has about 2 million followers. What she’s worried about is losing access to TikTok.

“As a civilian, I’m not concerned about it all,” Watts told Recode. “Even if the Chinese government had my information, what are they going to do with it?”

While Watts’s data might not expose anything sensitive, she’s just one of the app’s 100 million US users. Several cybersecurity experts told Recode that the app could pose a risk — if indeed the Chinese government forced TikTok to share data. Beijing has been accused of employing hackers to uncover all kinds of intellectually sensitive information in the US and other countries, from Covid-19 vaccine research to defense secrets. So it’s not a complete stretch to consider how certain TikTok users could be exploited — say, a defense contractor who uses TikTok for fun but whose phone could have other hackable, sensitive data on it.

“There are reasonable concerns on the security side,” Adam Segal, a cybersecurity expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Recode. “But the issue is, how do you address them, and what precedent are you setting?”

Some people have speculated that the president is targeting TikTok to retaliate against the app’s users that recently pranked Trump’s June campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by reportedly registering thousands of tickets that they didn’t end up using. But TikTok isn’t the only Chinese-owned company to become a Trump target. In the recent past, he has halted Chinese development of 5G networks in the US, and he’s banned a Chinese company from buying the dating app Grindr. And last week, he issued an executive order that threatens to ban the popular messaging app WeChat, owned by the Chinese mega-company Tencent. Unlike TikTok, there’s no plan for WeChat to sell to a US bidder, making it a potentially more impactful part of Trump’s crackdown.

Viewed together, Trump’s threats to ban TikTok and WeChat are part of his administration’s broader strategy of being tougher on China.

There are two related issues driving the conflict. The first is the US government’s concern that the Chinese government could force companies like TikTok’s ByteDance to surveil Americans. This is a worry shared by Republicans as well as some leading Democrats, like Sen. Richard Blumenthal. The second issue is the Trump administration’s perception that China is trying to take over the global technology industry, which has long been dominated by American powerhouses. For years, the Chinese government has banned major US tech companies like Facebook and Google from doing business in the country, and now the US is starting to reciprocate by banning Chinese apps.

“Tech is one of the most important battlegrounds for the China-US cold war because wrapped up in tech is the conversation of economic competitive strength and values,” said Segal.

There’s a lot that we don’t know about what risks Chinese-owned apps like TikTok pose to US citizens, since much of this information is considered classified American intelligence. But whether the risks are small or significant, the recent debates over what to do with TikTok and WeChat are part of what some are calling a new cold war between China and the US, with the US positioning itself as the moral leader upholding an internet that adheres to values of free speech, in contrast to the Chinese Communist Party, which regularly enforces strict censorship online.

Do you work at TikTok and have thoughts about what’s going on? Please email Shirin Ghaffary at shirin.ghaffary@protonmail.com to reach her confidentially. Signal number available upon request.

What we know — and don’t know — about national security concerns

Trump has accused ByteDance and other Chinese tech companies like WeChat of posing serious threats to US national security.

The concern is that TikTok could funnel American users’ personal data to the Chinese Communist Party, “potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage,” according to Trump’s recent executive order. The order makes it illegal for any person or company in the US to do business with TikTok after September 20. If TikTok sells to a US company before then, the ban will no longer apply.

So what’s actually going on? It’s true that TikTok automatically collects reams of user data, including location and internet address, searching history within the app, and type of device being used, according to its privacy policy. But many other popular social media apps do this, too. (TikTok has said that it collects less data than its competitors, like Facebook and Google, because it doesn’t track user activity across devices, which both companies do.)

Last month, a report found that TikTok was accessing users’ clipboard data and saving what people copy and paste. TikTok said this was an anti-spam measure and that it’s now stopped the practice. But TikTok wasn’t the only app found accessing clipboard data; several other major apps, from ABC News to HotelTonight, were found to be accessing people’s clipboard data as well.

TikTok also sidestepped a privacy safeguard in Google’s Android operating system to secretly track users’ “MAC addresses,” which are unique identifiers tied to people’s phones, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. TikTok seems to have stopped tracking these identifiers in November, the Journal reported.

But aside from the specifics of what TikTok does and doesn’t track, politicians like Trump are worried that, ultimately, TikTok is beholden to the Chinese government. And the Chinese government has broad authority, significantly more so than the US government does, to snoop on users’ data as it pleases.

TikTok has repeatedly denied that it has or ever would give up user data to the Chinese government. The company says it stores American user data on servers in the US and Singapore, which ostensibly would make it harder for the Chinese government to tap into. The company has also taken measures to separate its US business overall from its Chinese parent company. For example, TikTok doesn’t operate in China (the Chinese version of it, Douyin, does).

The CIA reportedly investigated TikTok’s security threat and found no proof that Chinese intelligence authorities have been snooping on Americans through TikTok, according to the New York Times. The agency’s assessment still found that Chinese authorities could potentially tap into Americans’ data through the app, according to the Times’s summary of the classified report. That’s why last December, the Department of Defense cautioned military personnel to delete TikTok from their smartphones over security concerns. And the Senate voted unanimously to ban federal employees from using TikTok on government devices last week.

“There’s no publicly available evidence that TikTok has ever done anything wrong,” said Segal, “but the concern is that because the Chinese National Intelligence Law of 2017 says any Chinese company can be drafted into espionage, a company could be forced to hand over the data.”

TikTok’s efforts to separate its US business from its parent company’s Chinese operations are not enough to placate the growing intensity of anti-China hawks in Trump’s administration. And there doesn’t seem to be much TikTok can do — other than sell to a US company like Microsoft, which is the frontrunner out of a few major US companies that are reportedly in talks to buy TikTok’s US operations.

A second area of concern is that apps like TikTok and WeChat censor content that the Chinese Communist Party disapproves of. On this front, there are more documented concerns, especially about WeChat.

WeChat has been found to intercept and censor political messages sent by Chinese users to US users. A report in May by Canadian researchers CitizenLab found that the app was blocking certain messages, including a political cartoon depicting the late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was critical of the Chinese government. The report also found that WeChat was analyzing messages sent by international users, including those in the US, to scan for and block politically sensitive content before it could circulate among Chinese users.

With TikTok, there have been accusations — without definitive proof — of censorship at the behest of the Chinese government. Last year, internal company documents showed TikTok was instructing its staff to moderate content in line with the Chinese government’s censorship of topics like the Tiananmen Square massacre and Free Tibet, according to leaked guidelines published by the Guardian. But these guidelines were part of broad rules against controversial discussions on international politics across countries, so there’s no explicit proof that this was a directive from the Chinese government to TikTok. Another oft-cited concern about potential political censorship on TikTok is that during last year’s Hong Kong independence protests, there weren’t a lot of results for popular hashtags of the protest movement. But there’s no proof that the company was actively censoring content or whether people just weren’t posting about it.

The US’s escalating trade war with China over tech

It’s important to put all of this in context. TikTok and WeChat’s political troubles in the US don’t exist in a vacuum, but rather inside a larger web of complex China-US politics. Since 2018, Trump has waged a trade war with China over free trade policies that he feels disadvantage US manufacturing. And increasingly, tech has become tangled up in this war, involving Chinese-owned dating apps, drone companies, and telecom hardware makers.

“There is no bottom to the US-China relationship right now; it keeps getting worse and worse,” Segal told Recode. “The administration is looking for more and more ways to contain, hurt, and damage China.”

And technology, which has helped dramatically strengthen the Chinese economy in the past few decades, is seen as one of the most important areas of competition.

Last August, as China and the US were escalating tit-for-tat tariff increases on imported goods from each country, Trump issued an executive order aimed at the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei over concerns that the company was a cybersecurity threat. Trump gave Huawei a partial death penalty in the US by putting it on an “entity list” barred from doing business with US companies.

Huawei is a big deal outside of the US. It sold 250 million phones last year — that’s more than Apple. So the Trump administration’s effective ban had ripple effects. Google had to stop running its Android operating system on Huawei phones and killed its plans to build a smart speaker with the company. The US government’s restrictions also rolled back Huawei’s plan to manufacture equipment to build out a massive 5G internet network in the US, which the Trump administration worried the company could use to intercept data on behalf of the Chinese government. The US has since offered a reprieve to US companies, allowing them to work with Huawei through temporary licenses on setting 5G standards.

Even Chinese-owned dating apps have attracted the US government’s attention. Last April, the US government undid a deal that had sold the popular dating app Grindr to Chinese owners, citing national security concerns. The decision came from a little-known government agency, the Committee on Foreign Investments in the US (CFIUS), which reviews the national security risks of major transactions involving foreign corporations. CFIUS has similarly been reviewing the 2017 merger that led to TikTok’s creation, when ByteDance acquired the user base of the lip-syncing app Musical.ly and rebranded it as TikTok.

Some of the Trump administration’s targets seem to pose a more obvious security threat: roaming drones that could be tapping video feeds and surveilling US turf. The Trump administration is reportedly considering issuing an executive order banning the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI, the most popular drone maker in the world, whose equipment is commonly used for military and rescue purposes. The US Department of the Interior has already grounded at least 800 DJI drones out of fear that the Chinese government could exploit them to spy on Americans. Last month, researchers found major flaws in DJI’s security features, which collected “large amounts of personal information that could be exploited by the Beijing government,” according to the New York Times.

The consequences of these mounting tensions over Chinese-owned tech could have a number of side effects. An obvious possibility is that China could retaliate. The US’s actions could also give other countries precedent to start cutting off their app markets from US companies — for example, a European country could, citing privacy concerns, bar its citizens from accessing Facebook. Either would be bad for the US economy in the long run, said Bobby Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas who specializes in national security law.

But, Chesney stressed, the US isn’t making the first move here. American companies have long been banned in China, where companies that started off by building copycats of major US tech apps — Baidu is China’s answer to Google, Didi its Uber, Weibo its Twitter — have grown into tech powerhouses. US social media companies have tried, unsuccessfully, to enter the Chinese market.

“Good luck running Twitter in China,” said Chesney. “The playing field is very much not level in the other direction.”

What’s next

Trump has given both TikTok and WeChat a September 20 deadline before his executive orders will be enforced. If TikTok and WeChat don’t follow these orders by then, their business operations could be fined $300,000 per violation, and “willful offenders” could face criminal charges. TikTok is reportedly planning to sue the administration over the legality of the order.