It is estimated that there are 13 million TikTok users in Poland, which means every third Pole uses the app. Only Facebook and Instagram are ahead – writes Jacek Perzyński, contributor to BiznesAlert.pl and asks about the possibility of TikTok being banned.
TikTok bans are adding up
China’s TikTok, created by tech giant ByteDance, has for years been stirring up controversies and arousing numerous suspicions among various governments. It seems that in the near future more and more states will ban the popular application. Today, an increasing number of countries are becoming concerned about the possibility of being spied on and having their sensitive data stolen.
The entire world is watching whether the United States will introduce limitations on using the app in the country. Interestingly, this initiative enjoys the support of the Republicans and Democrats, who together plan to ban using TikTok. Washington fears that the intelligence services of the Middle Kingdom will use it for mass surveillance, obtaining secret information or impact the outcome of elections in America. Recently, Joe Biden’s administration issued an ultimatum to the Chinese: either the shares will be sold, or the app will be banned across the country. That would be a huge loss for ByteDance, as 100 million Americans use it.
India and Taiwan have already banned the Chinese app, and in the past few weeks, the European Union, Belgium and Canada have banned the use of TikTok on government devices, mirroring similar bans imposed by the United States late last year.
On top of that, Czech Security Services warned against using the application. Belgium has temporarily banned the installation of TikTok on official devices for officials at the federal level. British ministers are also planning to take similar steps following a warning issued by British security services.
Does TikTok transfer data to Chinese intelligence?
Experts have been warning that the application collects large amounts of data from users, and in addition can manipulate the flow of information using advanced algorithms. It is important to mention that the data collection system used by the Chinese app is no different from other large technology platforms, such as Facebook or Google. However, concerns about the Chinese platform, in particular regulations that allow Beijing to force any company to share user data with the government and the potential use of the TikTok algorithm by the intelligence services to influence users in the US, outweighed any assurances from the company. ByteDance’s insistence that it does not share data with the Chinese government had no effect, leading its flagship product to international ostracism.
While many countries are still investigating the potential use of the popular app for intelligence purposes, it should be noted that Chinese technology companies are legally required to transfer user data to their own intelligence services, also the answer is simple: TikTok can be and certainly is used to collect sensitive data.
What will Poland do?
It is worth pointing out that the app ban is not just about security, it also has a political dimension. The Government Plenipotentiary for Cybersecurity Minister Janusz Cieszyński said: “There are no plans to ban the app in Poland. Following the latest reports from the world, we have asked those countries where bans have been introduced to provide us with the technical basis for these decisions. Based on these responses, we will take action. Based on the information we have received so far, it is clear that these were grounded in political reasons, not merit-based reasons”. It is not known whether the Polish government will introduce a ban or put any restrictions on TikTok.
It is worth noting that the Chinese platform is also growing very rapidly in Central Europe, and a few years ago ByteDance even decided to open a branch in Warsaw. Poland is the fastest growing market in Europe. It is estimated that there are 13 million TikTok users in Poland, which means every third Pole uses the app. Only Facebook and Instagram are ahead.
To sum up, more and more countries are now blocking or restricting the use of the Chinese app, and it looks like TikTok’s “golden era” is coming to an end amid concerns about secret data capturing. However, this renunciation will be difficult for the 1.8 billion people in the world, as the Chinese app has captured the hearts of the younger generation. It is important to remember that the possible imposition of restrictions on the Chinese application will cause a crunch in relations with the Middle Kingdom, which may or may not retaliate. Polish companies may be interested in entering the Chinese market, but despite repeated promises to increase imports from Poland, there has still been no increase in trade turnover. It is not known whether the Poles will take such a step.