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TIKTOK has entertained millions during lockdown – but security fears have shrouded the app in controversy.
The hugely popular Chinese-owned app will be banned from app stores in the US from Sunday to "combat China's malicious collection of American citizens' personal data", the US Commerce Department announced on Friday, September 18.
What is the Tik Tok row?
The popular app – known for its memes, dances and trends – exploded during lockdown.
But TikTok's Chinese roots have come under scrutiny.
Governments are raising security concerns over the app's potential ties to the Chinese state.
There are also questions regarding surveillance technology within the app, potential breaches of personal data and other matters including safety of users and regulation of content.
At present there is no parental lock or way of policing the app.
Could TikTok be banned in the UK?
After US President Donald Trump announced he plans to officially ban TikTok in the US, many fear similar actions could be taken in the UK.
It also follows the news that TikTok backed away from making the United Kingdom its global headquarters amid rising tensions between Britain and China.
However, there are no current reports suggesting that the app will be banned in the UK.
Leading Tories have warned TikTok could be as harmful to Britain as Huawei, the Chinese tech firm which the UK removed from its 5G network.
A rival to TikTok, Instagram Reels, appeared in Brazil in late 2019 and has now expanded into the UK market on August 5, 2020.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said TikTok should be banned because of its proximity to “Chinese intelligence services,” The Times reported.
He said: “There are real serious concerns, as big as with Huawei, over the role that they play.”
“TikTok is the product of a company called ByteDance which has roots everywhere at the moment, a bit like Huawei. They’re growing like mad. Everybody is now reviewing the company.”
How many people in the UK use TikTok?
According to figures from Campaign, the app has 4.9 million users in the UK.
This could be set to double by next year, reaching a potential 10.1 million people.
India, where the app is now banned, reached 190.6 million downloads in 2019 – more than anywhere else in the world.
There are close to 800 million TikTok users across the globe.
Will TikTok be banned in the US and other countries?
On September 18, the Commerce Department said downloads and maintenance of TikTok will be banned "at the president's direction."
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said: "We have taken significant action to combat China's malicious collection of American citizens' personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations."
In August, President Donald Trump announced that the US will ban the app in 45 days after calling it a "national security threat".
The executive order says: "TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories."
The ban will go ahead in the US if the app's parent company ByteDance doesn't sell its American operations by Tuesday, September 15 – the exact amount of which hasn't been specified.
On July 31, Trump told reporters: “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States".
US lawmakers had raised intelligence, national security, and privacy concerns about the company’s ownership.
India has already banned TikTok, while Indonesia temporarily banned the app for eight days.
India banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps on July 7 in a watershed move by regulators.
The country was TikTok's top market for downloads, according to CNN, and there is little chance of the ban being lifted.
Responding to India's ban, the company's chief executive Kevin Mayer categorically denied that TikTok would ever share data with the Chinese government.
The Australian government is also under pressure to outlaw the popular app amid concerns it poses a serious national security threat.
Has China banned the app?
TikTok is not accessible in China without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
However, China has its own version of the app named DouYin, which is hugely popular.
DouYin also belongs to parent company ByteDance, who have been careful to distance themselves from the Chinese government.
But the company was rocked by leaked reports published in the Guardian in 2019 that revealed that Beijing was instructing the app's moderators to remove videos mentioning Tiananmen Square or Tibetan Independence.
ByteDance, set up by Chinese tech mogul Zhang Yiming, posted a huge £3billion profit in 2019.
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