How the US Is Exploiting Privacy Fears to Win Its Digital War Against China

Published March 2nd, 2020 - 12:02 GMT
How the US Is Exploiting Privacy Fears to Win Its Digital War Against China
US officials keep warning of Chinese security breaches that could threaten individuals' privacy and exploit users' data. (Shutterstock)

The US is seemingly always warning users about intrusive Chinese applications, mostly citing privacy concerns. But it's hard to know whether this is driven by sincere concern, given the extreme surveillance measures taken by China, or by high digital competition between the world's two largest economies.

With every popular Chinese high-tech milestone, we hear US officials and experts warning of Chinese security breaches that could threaten individuals' privacy and exploit user data. This has been the case with Huawei's smartphones, Chinese 5G networks, and popular Chinese mobile apps like TikTok.
 
Recently, US officials have taken every chance to warn Americans about using the famous video-sharing social networking service TikTok, which was downloaded more than 738 million times in 2019.
 
The US warnings mention serious vulnerabilities in the popular application that could allow hackers to use malicious links to breach users' phones. It also highlighted the fact that Chinese laws require app developers to share all information exchanged on its platform with the government, in what's been regarded as an extreme surveillance practice by Chinese authorities.
 
In the US, the Transport Security Administration (TSA) and military institutions have banned their members from using TikTok and urged them to find alternative, more trustworthy platforms instead.
 

CEO of Reddit Steve Huffman said during a discussion in Silicon Valley last week that TikTok is "fundamentally parasitic," adding that "it’s always listening, and the fingerprinting technology they use is truly terrifying."

Yet, technology experts have expressed their concern over singling out Chinese applications when it comes to privacy violations, arguing that US-based apps like Facebook and Google have also been listening to users' conversations and accessing their internet activity for years.

Analysts are suggesting that America's war on TikTok stems from the fierce competition between the US and China in terms of technology. Facebook, for example, has reportedly been under a lot of pressure because of the "existential threat" that is TikTok, pushing developers to try copying some of the features enjoyed by users of the Chinese popular app to maintain the growth of their own user base.


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