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The standoff along the India-China border provoked several disputes between two powerful nations of Asia, and India appears to have escalated an economic one, which could have its own consequences. On 29 June, the Government of India banned 59 Chinese apps, including one of India’s most popular video sharing apps - TikTok. Certainly, with the potential cybersecurity concerns about TikTok, owned by ByteDance, it became a threat considering a lot of aspects of the virtual world. And here’s a quick overview of some of the concerns that have come up with the Chinese app that everyone should know about.

1. Spying on phones:

There were numerous allegations on TikTok to secretly spy on phones of people around the world. And with the release of the new clipboard warning in the beta version of iOS 14, with developers, TikTok appeared to have been caught abusing the clipboard and using the data in a quite extraordinary way. According to ‘Forbes’, the most critical issue with this vulnerability is Apple’s universal clipboard functionality, which means that anything you copy on your Mac or iPad can be read by your iPhone, and vice versa. So, if TikTok is active on your phone while you work, the app can basically read anything and everything you copy on another device, Passwords, work documents, sensitive emails, financial information. And it is also assumed that TikTok may have been spying on Android users as well, by using similar tactics.

2. Suppress ‘poor’ and ‘ugly’ users:

TikTok’s leaked internal documents have uncovered that the company tried to repress content by creators who were considered as ‘too ugly’ or ‘too poor’, according to a report published by ‘The Intercept’. The protocols, content by “unattractive, poor, or otherwise undesirable users” would not be good for retaining new users, and could decrease this rate. And if the character’s appearance or the shooting environment is not good, the video will be much less attractive, not worth to be recommended to new users. TikTok said that these practices were issued to prevent bullying on its platform. However, the intention seemed way more distinct as the company was looking to improve its image.

3. Erased anti-China content:

TikTok being a Chinese company, it strives to erase the anti-China content. TikTok has also faced the heat for what is called a “shadow ban”. A user who uploads the content is not notified but other users never get to see it because it does not come upon anyone’s feed. According to a report of ‘Times of India', the standoff along the India-China border at Ladakh, for instance, generated hundreds of videos on the platform. So, while #ladakhchinaborder, #chinaladakh, were all hashtags that existed on videos, and they had zero views and no link to the videos. In fact, that’s the same for several videos. The TikTok spokesperson said the platform does not censor anti-China content. But in effect, such shadowbans are no different from censorship.

4. Misleading videos:

TikTok continues to set the bar low with its improper content. It carries terrorism and acid-attack videos with several videos promoting rape, violence, underage kids being sexualized, communal disputes and animal abuse have surfaced on the Chinese app. Controlling such a large amount of vulgar content streaming on the platform is an extremely effortful task. For instance, A TikTok ‘social-media influencer’ was caught trying to promote acid-attacks on women, with millions of views, which also created a large social media controversy. A BBC Trending investigation came across several accounts run by children under 13, with some as young as nine years old. The report moreover found the video-sharing app failed to remove online predators who were sending sexual messages to teenagers and children. Over three months, the investigation collected hundreds of sexual comments posted on videos uploaded by teenagers and children.

5. China's intricate data storage:

When installed, TikTok asks users to grant several permissions, including the use of the camera, microphone and contact list. However, it may also collect location data, along with information from other apps on the device. And all this information is gathered by Chinese servers, although this hasn’t been proven to have happened. In a report by Scroll.in, a proposed class-action lawsuit was filed against TikTok in California claimed the company gathered users’ data, including phone numbers, emails, location, IP addresses, and social network contacts. The lawsuit also stated TikTok concealed the transfer of data, including biometric data, and continued to harvest it even after the app was closed. This would mean when a user shoots a video and clicks the “next” button, the video could be automatically transferred to servers without the user’s knowledge. There’s still potential for data to be extracted from this video content and the device and sent to China’s servers.

Just days after India officially banned 59 apps owned by Chinese tech companies including TikTok, more countries are now looking at banning Chinese owned apps as well. At this time, the US and Australia have been very vocal about the need to ban Chinese social media apps, with fears over national security and the possibility of user data being shared with China.