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The Great ‘Trump vs. TikTok’ Farce of 2020

As we know all too well, President Trump loves a bit of drama.

Helt Digital har engasjert Matt Navarra til å komme med analyser eksklusivt for deg som abonnent.  

…i denne analysen ser Navarra på TikTok-dramaet i USA:

Trump’s exclamation that TikTok is a major security threat to the U.S., and that it, therefore, must be banned or sold to a ‘trustworthy’ U.S. entity is nothing more than political theatrics.

The big question: Is TikTok a genuine threat to the security of the U.S and its citizens?

The question has been attempted to be answered by a long list of academics, journalists, data, and cyber-security experts worldwide.

Experts’ most common view is TikTok could pose a security risk due to the app owner’s (ByteDance) Chinese origins, due to the legal requirement to provide user data to the Chinese government upon demand. However, ByteDance has strenuously denied ever handing over such data, and it has said it would not comply with such a request if and when one was made. Understandably, for many, these promises are not enough to set such concerns aside.

When TikTok’s mobile app was probed and reverse engineered by industry experts, the data it was found to be collecting and processing were no different from the data most similar or rival apps like Facebook and Twitter were harvesting.

The sorts of data TikTok and others typically captured and processed include what type of device the app is being used on, its screen size, other apps installed on the user’s device, which WIFI network is being used, etc.

If President Trump is concerned about the data harvesting activities of TikTok, it would be reasonable to have the same concerns about the many other apps behaving in the same way. Yet no Facebook or Twitter ban is being threatened by him.

The concern about how the Chinese government may obtain U.S. TikTok user data, and how it may ‘weaponize’ such data is a legitimate concern.

However, there is no evidence to suggest this has ever happened, or that it presents a real and imminent threat.

Is it reasonable for President Trump to threaten a ban on any non-U.S. business over a hunch or something that may happen? Is it fair to force a partial sale of such a business to a U.S. corporate entity, just in case?

It sets a worrying precedent for any business currently operating in the U.S, or with plans to.

The sell-out or get banned drum being banged by Trump is seemingly close to its loud finale. American cloud-computing giant Oracle is widely expected to be confirmed as TikTok’s ‘technology partner.’ A vague and ambiguous term that seems to fall far short of any sort of sale to a U.S company.

Oracle is to provide the data processing infrastructure for TikTok’s U.S. user base.

Although such a deal may tenuously tackle the concerns President Trump made so much noise about, there’s a strong suspicion that the president’s friendship with Oracle’s billionaire founder and Trump supporter Larry Ellison may play a large part in the deal.

Meanwhile, Microsoft, who declared its interest in TikTok early on in this quasi-political/business soap opera, has been left out in the cold, wondering “WTF just happened?”.

This drama’s final act is unfolding as we speak with an announcement from the Trump administration is expected shortly to confirm what deal has been done and with whom.

We live in Trump’s America, so one thing is certain: the ending will probably make for an epic Netflix documentary someday.

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