TikTok Holds Secrets that Even EU Regulators Want to Possess and Protect!
European regulations are eyeing the secrets citing data protection of Tiktok.
Information game now rules this world, and those who are in denial mode about it are literally out of touch with reality. Interestingly, the game is as much about disclosure as it is about secrecy. Apparently, the two are antithetical but actually, they are not so. They exist in simultaneity in the data-saturated world and when it comes to social networks there are secrets in their possession, which make even the powerful governing regimes suspicious. If one harbors any doubt about the point being made here, the instance of Europe’s promulgation of European regulation to control TikTok by compelling it to divulge its ‘secrets’ will be a helpful guide to change the stand. The Digital Services Act, on which the European Union (EU) places much faith in controlling what it considers the unlawful activities of the world’s top platforms, is bringing TikTok’s contents and practices under its scrutiny for the utmost data protection for data privacy concerns.
The China-owned short video platform has undergone spectacular growth, leaving most of its competitors way behind. Last year TikTok posted as much as US$34 billion in revenue, showing its aggressive march in global social networking. But TikTok has become a major concern for the Data Protection Commission (DPC), situated in Ireland, which is the EU designated regulator of most of the world’s prominent internet sites. The data privacy issue basically concerns Bytedance, TikTok’s parent company, possessing and processing personal data of children who are among its youngest members, and also its practice of transferring personal data to its host country, China. TikTok incidentally is a hot favorite of children and taking advantage of it the company allows children as young as thirteen to be targeted by advertisers. It is impacting data privacy issues at a bigger level for children and teenagers who are exposed to the world. Transferring data to China is also a very sensitive data privacy issue with immense political import for the western states.
The DPC has the authority to impose fines of up to 4 percent of a company’s global revenue. The allegation of TikTok having breached many of Europe’s data protection laws has also come from the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) which has complained to the European Commission. Moreover, consumer organizations in fifteen European countries have alerted their national authorities and urged them to investigate TikTok’s ways of data handling under European regulations. The call for ensuring external audits for knowing what is going on in TikTok has become louder in Europe.
TikTok has responded by stating that it is “serious” about protecting user data and that it has already in place several policies and “approved methods” for data transfer from Europe. It has also made it clear that it has concern for the privacy and safety of the TikTok community as a whole, and no less so of the youngest members. However, such statements do not convince either the EU or the US government, both of which are wary of the video-sharing app’s secret operations. In fact, in the USA both the Democrats and the Republicans are in the same boat insofar as their apprehension about TikTok’s data collection and clamor for busting its secrecy protocols are concerned.
Transparency and accountability, the twin pillars of good governance, are intimately connected to the information system. If TikTok tries to remain as ‘closed’ as its parent country and try to play the information game on their own terms the European regulations will try to counter it to the best of their efforts and make sure that it opens up while operating in Europe.