Confronting the Security Risks of TikTok



The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that could lead to a ban on the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok. The legislation is justified because the app, operated by a Chinese company, could potentially threaten national security by becoming a tool for manipulating public opinion. Whether or not the bill is passed, it highlights a critical issue.

China is said to conduct influence operations on the internet, employing tactics such as disseminating fake information or mass postings against Japan, the U.S. and other democratic nations. Japan, too, should examine the security risks posed by apps and devices made in China and take necessary measures.

In China, the National Intelligence Law enacted in 2017 requires all individuals and organizations to support the country’s intelligence-gathering efforts. ByteDance, the operator of TikTok, cannot refuse to collect user data or manipulate public opinion if requested by the government.

For this reason, the U.S. bill proposes banning the app within the U.S. unless it sells its U.S. business within the next six months, thereby severing China’s influence.

The algorithm that selects videos on TikTok is developed and operated in China. TikTok has been accused of the tendency to suppress information inconvenient to China, such as the Tiananmen Square incident, while amplifying negative content about Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, in contrast to social networks developed in the U.S.

The security risks associated with Chinese information technology extend beyond information manipulation. It has been confirmed that there have been regular cyberattacks from China aimed at stealing information through networks using IT devices.

Devices that connect to the internet, such as routers, surveillance cameras, vehicle cameras and voice command systems, can be remotely updated. We should establish usage regulations that account for the risks of firmware capable of secretly collecting usage records.

While the U.S. and U.K. have banned the use of TikTok on government and military devices, Japan has limited such restrictions to devices that handle sensitive information. Japan also lags behind in regulating the use of Chinese surveillance cameras and vehicles compared to the U.S. and U.K.

The Liberal Democratic Party has previously proposed establishing usage rules for Chinese apps from a security risk perspective, but these proposals have yet to be fully realized. We should consider comprehensive national risk mitigation measures.

About this publication

About Itaru Ebihara 9 Articles
Hi there! I am originally from Chiba, Japan and have been calling San Francisco home since 2018. My journey into English began with when I watched "High School Musical" during my teenage years. You can easily find me working out or doing yoga at the gym, or hiking in the vast nature of Northern California.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply