Delete TikTok or risk your data to ‘hostile’ threats, foreign affairs committee chief warns

People have been urged to delete TikTok from their phones, and the chairman of Britain’s foreign affairs committee has warned that we are “naive” about the threat posed by the app.

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns said the installation of the video-sharing platform had left users’ personal data exposed to “hostile” threats – specifically the Chinese government.

TikTokwhich is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has denied ever giving such information.

But Ms Kearns told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “It’s not worth having that vulnerability on your phone.

“It is the ultimate data source for anyone with hostile efforts.”

When asked if people using the app should delete it, she replied: “No question.”

Why is TikTok so controversial?

Although TikTok is very popular, especially among teenagers, and has more than a billion users worldwide, it is under increasing scrutiny for the amount of information it collects from people’s phones.

In the UK, Europe, and even more so in the US, where absolute prohibition has been expressedconcerns were raised that the company could gain access to this data and give it to Chinese officials.

It comes after the revelation that ByteDance employees used TikTok data to try to track down some Western journalists and find out their sources. An update to the app’s privacy policy also revealed that some overseas staff could gain access to user data in specific circumstances.

“Everyone should be concerned about that,” Ms Kearns said.

TikTok has consistently dismissed the claims against it, with executive Liz Kanter telling Ms Kearn’s committee in December that China had not asked for UK user data on the platform and would not have provided it if it had.

In the US, where TikTok was sued for alleged privacy violationsthe company insisted that its operation is independent of ByteDance and that users are safe.

But Ms Kearns told Sky News “we are naive” and “we have to be much more serious about protecting ourselves”.

Does TikTok really collect my data?

TikTok knows things like your IP address, what other apps you have on your phone, and of course any signature information you provide such as email address and birthday.

TikTok needs to ask for permission to access location data and your contacts, but unlike others, it’s much more reluctant to take no for an answer and will regularly prompt you if you haven’t.

Within the app, what it learns about users through their data and viewing habits powers a highly efficient algorithm that generates an endless curated feed of short videos focused on their interests.

It has helped turn the app into a global cultural behemoth, with new online trends emerging regularly among its growing number of users.

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Despite its popularity, TikTok faces the prospect of a ban in the US, where it is already banned in some schools, workplaces, and on the devices of politicians in Congress.

Democrats and Republicans unveiled bipartisan legislation last year that would ban TikTok across the US, and America’s own foreign affairs committee is set to vote on it later this month.

TikTok leader Shou Zi Chew is also scheduled to testify before the US energy and commerce committee in March.

Joe Biden has not indicated whether he would support a total ban, a previous nuclear option the effort of former president Donald Trumpbut he ordered a government review of foreign-owned apps.

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