There are fears that China may compel TikTok to give them private user data, a technology expert has explained.
Government departments have advised all staff that TikTok should be removed from all official devices unless “there's an overwhelming business case for retaining it”.
Irish Independent Technology Editor Adrian Weckler told Off the Record this decision was influenced by the European Commission.
“The European Commission have said they fear that the Chinese government and Chinese laws will compel Byte Dance to make TikTok give it access to user data,” he said.
“That could be politicians that could be ministers could be other people with sensitive data.”
This data could include “everything from location name, personal data who your connections are and what kind of things you do [and] where you shop.”
Mr Weckler said the Irish National Cyber Security Centre did not find any “vulnerabilities in TikTok” after months of investigations.
Despite that, Mr Weckler said they still recommended avoiding the app.
“The issue is that it isn't what we know to be happening - it's what we can't rule out what is happening now,” he said.
TikTok in Dublin
“The Irish have had to tread very carefully on this because TikTok employs about 3000 people here,” he said. “Ironically, Dublin is where it's opening its new 'Trust and Transparency Centre'.”
In February, TikTok announced they were opening a second data centre and a physical European Transparency and Accountability Centre in Dublin.
He said: “To be fair to the National Cyber Security Centre, they said that if and when that opens, if and when the Data Protection Commission investigates TikTok, and whether or not it is sending European information to China, they might change their recommendation.”
Access to social media
Mr Weckler said there is no doubt that other governments across the world “definitely have access to many social networking apps like Meta or Gmail” - but geopolitical elements are causing the warnings against TikTok.
“We can accept a certain amount of surveillance and monitoring from the Americans and from the Europeans,” he said. “Because we sort of trust them because that's sort of our own administration.”
Mr Weckler said China is “essentially an authoritarian regime” - but there is also a possibility of a “Red Scare” against TikTok.
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