TikTok, the seemingly innocuous viral video app most popular with Generation Z, is facing increased scrutiny as lawmakers around the world wrestle with the app’s data privacy and security concerns. Citing a national security threat posed by the Chinese Government, The White House issued a pair of Executive Orders barring Americans or anyone “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” from doing business with the video app as well as the popular social media and payment app, WeChat. Additionally, the US Senate passed a measure that would prohibit TikTok on all government-issued devices. Previously, the EU and countries like India have either investigated TikTok's user privacy and security practices, or in some cases outright banned the app altogether. In the case of India, a ban was enacted to “ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace”, according to the Indian government.
Since these apps are tools that are used by many businesses for international communication and commerce, the full implications have yet to be understood. Large corporations such as Starbucks, Wal-Mart and the NBA share close ties with WeChat and its parent company, TenCent.
TikTok in this case may just be the tip of the iceberg. While TikTok is claiming major headlines related to data privacy, a recent EU ruling may have further implications for a host of companies. The Court of Justice of the European Union recently ruled on the EU–US Privacy Shield, the framework that outlined how US and EU companies may share and exchange consumer data. The decision was based on the inability of the agreement to provide adequate protections from unauthorized surveillance and interference. The ruling is expected to affect upwards of 5,000 different multinational organizations.
Both of these instances illustrate the need for companies to be proactive in safeguarding the personal data that they maintain on their servers. With an increasingly smaller (digital) world devoid of traditional borders, all organizations have to be more aware of their roles as data stewards.