EU, Canada’s targeting of TikTok over data security groundless, will not hinder its globalization: experts

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Chinese short-video app TikTok has recently come under the spotlight in what could be a fresh wave of the US-led political witch hunt against Chinese technology companies, after the EU Commission announced it was suspending the use of the social media app while the Canadian government launched a probe into it over so-called data security issues.

Experts said that the latest moves are part of the West’s attempt to squeeze technology companies from China, and the security claims behind it lack any factual basis. Such hegemony will not have a substantive impact on TikTok’s global market nor hinder the globalization pace of Chinese tech firms.

The EU Commission’s Corporate Management Board announced it was suspending the use of the social media app on its corporate devices and on personal devices enrolled in the commission’s mobile device service, according to a statement the EU Commission released on Thursday.

This measure aims to protect the Commission against cybersecurity threats and actions which may be exploited for cyber-attacks against the corporate environment of the Commission, the statement said.

The commission added that this “suspension is an internal corporate decision which is strictly limited to the use of devices enrolled in its mobile service.”

TikTok did not respond to the Global Times’ inquiries as of press time. Responding to the announcement by the EU Commission, Tiktok said it was disappointed and surprised that the Commission had not reached out before instituting the ban, Reuters reported on Friday.

The popular video-sharing app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has come under growing scrutiny in some Western countries over so-called security concerns that Chinese authorities could access user data from overseas, according to media reports.

Industry experts slammed the West’s recent move targeting TikTok, saying that it is part of a series of US-led tough measures against Chinese technology companies citing security reasons, which have no factual basis, and which only serve their own politically-driven purposes to demonize China and Chinese companies, experts said.

“This is a discriminatory policy, and there has been no evidence suggesting that TikTok has caused damage to users’ privacy and interests, not to mention that the company’s data centers are located overseas, and relevant information will not be transmitted to China,” Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Beijing-based Information Consumption Alliance, told the Global Times on Friday.

The sanction is also expected to have a tiny impact on TikTok’s European market, which has already gained huge popularity for its user-friendly features that have won over many fans worldwide, especially among youngsters.

Moreover, the block will be a loss for the targeted group, who will not  be able to use the app, and may also shake the confidence of future investors, especially those from China, in the EU market, Liu Dingding, a Beijing-based independent tech analyst, told the Global Times on Friday.

In addition to the EU suspending the use of the app, the company has also been targeted in Canada after privacy protection authorities for Canada, Québec, British Columbia and Alberta announced on Thursday a joint investigation into the short-video streaming app.

The investigation was launched in the wake of now settled class action lawsuits in the US and Canada, as well as numerous media reports related to TikTok’s collection, use and disclosure of personal information, a statement issued on the website of Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said.

Four Canadian privacy regulators will examine whether the organization’s practices are in compliance with Canadian privacy legislation, a move that experts said is another attempt to squeeze Chinese tech firms by closely following in the US’ footsteps.

Late last year, the US Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed into law a sprawling spending package that included legislation banning TikTok on millions of federal government devices, according to CNBC on February 18. Very recently, some US senators have also proposed bills that would ban the app in the US, the report said.

Despite the West targeted approach against the social media platform, TikTok has a billion-user base in the global market, including more than 100 million users in European Union member states, with users voting on their feet, Liu said. If the company did not have the intention or ability to secure users’ data, it would not have come this far, the expert said.

According to industry data, the app is now available in over 150 countries, has over 1 billion users, and has been downloaded over 210 million times in the US alone. TikTok’s monthly active users also come to over 1 billion.

With the acceleration of its international expansion, the company is also building more data centers abroad, as part of efforts to provide added security for its users’ data, Xiang said.

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