Tiktok and WeChat: Security or paranoia?

What does Beijing apparently know about you from your TikTok? For me, it’s that I really like frogs in tiny cowboy hats. pixabay

This decision was probably not made with the greatest intentions.

Well, this is an interesting dilemma. A lot has occurred in the news lately with regards to apps like TikTok and WeChat.As someone who is older, and therefore hates the youth, things like TikTok have little to no effect on my life (I liked it better when it was called Vine anyway). That being said, when a U.S. politician becomes involved in the activity of said apps, that does make things a bit more interesting. 

Even more interesting still is when a high-ranking U.S. politician becomes involved. And still more so is when that high-ranking official is the President of the United States. Can I say I’m shocked that the leader of one of the most massive superpowers, someone who’s used an app to turn bad press against them into a hashtag for paranoid conspiracy die-hards to use, has deemed Tiktok and WeChat matters of national security in foreign intelligence? Honestly, no, I can’t say that I’m all that shocked by the hypocrisy on display.

A quick refresher for those who aren’t sure what I’m on about: U.S. President Donald Trump has once again decided to spend time and effort on areas that are so minimal to actual issues going on right now (in my opinion) that it makes my head spin just thinking about it. Trump put forward an executive order to ban both TikTok and WeChat on August 6th; it was during this time that Trump raised his concerns that these apps collect important data from American citizens that could be used by those within the Chinese government. The reason why these two apps were specifically targeted is due to the popularity of WeChat with cross-country communication during the pandemic, and TikTok’s base of operations being in Beijing. 

In terms of recent developments with the ban, a decision to postpone its effects on TikTok was made on September 27 via Judge Carl Nichols. As it currently stands, November 12 is the deadline for TikTok to find an agreement with America in order to continue usage within the country. The date should be taken as a win of sorts for TikTok users, as the U.S. election itself takes place on November 3, thus, users can continue using the app for political means (if they so choose) without any disruptions until possibly after.

As for developments with WeChat, it more or less resides on the same level as TikTok. Given the popularity of the app in China, the vocal outcry of disappointment in the Trump administration’s decision to ban the app has been nothing short of steady.

U of R student Jasper Waitrich was able to comment on the situation, discussing how he felt with regards to its political relevance: “It’s a pressing issue depending on where you stand politically, but overall? Not really. It’s grandstanding, and most politics is. TikTok and WeChat are only doing what Facebook, Twitter, and others already do, so it’s not so much about Americans’ data getting stolen — it’s about waving the finger at China.”

Moving past developments and student opinions, I’d like to speak on a more personal note. A large part of where this issue is nonsensical for me is that this entire situation can either be deemed a “tech war” pissing match or lack of focus towards actual issues that are literally plaguing the United States right now. We’re talking about a President who, back in February, understood that COVID-19 was something more than just a common flu, but just dismissed it. He completely left American citizens in the dark and, instead of taking responsibility as a leader, decided to act as though he was just as surprised as you or me. So forgive me if I don’t exactly believe that the intentions of this man are anything but pure with regards to the action he is taking against TikTok and WeChat.

Saying that you need to protect national privacy and information via the dangers of apps because citizens are “at risk” really just says it all about Trump’s priorities, doesn’t it? As I had said before, a deadly virus that is, as we speak, making a second wave through New York is one thing, but you guys need to understand that Trump is in a altercation with China at the moment so his hands are tied.

Long story short, I understand where privacy and safety in social media or communication based apps has always been an issue. Not too long ago, Facebook (as Waitrich mentioned earlier) was, and in many ways still is, under fire for their handling of the private information of those that used their platform. That being said, for the U.S. President to try and move forward with a ban like he’s trying to help with people’s concerns is laughable. He and his administration’s actions are based around “getting back” at China, and nothing else.

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