"Why should I care if China knows how many cat videos I see on TikTok?"

A great Frontline about the opportunities and dangers of AI (IIRC there is a section on how China uses AI to “manage” their population).

And is governmental censorship the ideal way to deal with this problem (if it even exists)?

It’s not censorship, No one is attacking a specific incidence of speech or a political idea. We’re talking about removing an app that is stealing personal information and giving it to a hostile power. The fact that they may be using it to make kids more distractible or whatever is a side show.

While allowing non-China-based tech companies access to the same personal data, though? Sounds deceptively selective to me, governmental authorities making a boogeyman out of what China doing to “your children” when the real problem is what THEIR children are doing with the app.

Since you’ve shot down basically all suggestions so far, I’d like to turn the table and ask you a question: What action would you consider rises to level that you’d call it dangerous?

Why are you asking me? I have no idea.

I still haven’t seen the beginning of an adequate answer to my original question, just vague talk of “great danger” and “security considerations” and other scary words, so let’s deal with first things first.

I am concerned that this anti-China hysteria will lead to increased racism against Asians in the U.S.

With all the valid answers given so far, and your casual dismissal of every one, I’m thinking you’re not just asking questions, but have an agenda and are JAQing off. Is China paying you?

The thing is, I did agree with you to a certain extent, slicedalone, but you were too focused on batting away the (valid) responses.

That is to say, I think a decision like this is partly motivated by a tit-for-tat trade war and political advantage, as well as the legitimate security concerns.
I think the 5G tech ban was more egregious.

And I agree about the demonization of China and attacks on people of East Asian appearance…but there are *a lot* of things that politicians are saying and doing that is far worse on this front (and for once we can say “on both sides”, but the most inciteful rhetoric is from the right and FOX). Banning Tiktok is nowhere near the tip of the spear.

They might have been valid, for all I know, but my objection is to their indirectness. The way to deal with an assertion such as my initial query implies would be to acknowledge it, in my opinion, and then to show precisely where the potential harm lies and the actual harm (even if none to the watcher of cat videos) comes in.

Instead, as with the so-called experts dealing with the initial question on NPR, I got obfuscation, some big words, some vague and general assertions to the effect of “Oh there’s harm, all right, believe you me” and such. I remain interested in finding out exactly how this harm occurs, whom it occurs to, how to prevent it, why China is so much more dangerous than home-grown internet malefactors, to what extent this is a real problem and to what extent it’s an occasion for xenophobes to sound off, etc.

As to my being on China’s payroll–sweet! When can I expect my first big check in the mail? As far as I can tell, I haven’t even been approached yet, but if anyone can tell me how I might monetize this thread, I’m all ears.

They are, and you continue to poo-poo them.

OK, China isn’t paying you, fine, you’re white knighting them for free.

Just because some bigots use use it to bash Asian people doesn’t mean China isn’t a repressive, controlling, 1984-in-practice, evil government.

I’ll be persuaded by persuasive evidence, thanks, not by intimidation or repetition of unpersuasive evidence.

OK. Setting out the information that’s already been shared in this thread, in (I hope) a clear fashion.

  • The “permissions” that you agree to when you download the TikTok app on your phone give the app’s owner access to a lot of your personal information that sits on your phone, none of which they actually need to simply let you watch entertaining videos. One should ask oneself what they are doing with all of that personal information on you (and on millions of other people).
  • Because they control what videos you actually get to see, they are capable of choosing to show you certain things, and not show you other things. By doing this, they are, potentially, able to shape your opinion on topics, by showing you things that support the point-of-view they wish to cultivate.
  • By getting you to engage in “fun” content, they can conduct what is called “social engineering” on you: by getting you to respond to videos or posts that ask seemingly innocuous questions like, “I bet no one can remember the name of their second grade teacher!”, they get people to unwittingly share information that they might have used for security questions on other websites, and/or allow them to develop a more complete profile on you, which can be used to clone your account, for nefarious purposes.

To be fair, none of that is unique to TikTok; these issues are things that people who use any social media apps should be familiar with. But, what makes TikTok a unique issue is that, yes, it’s a Chinese company, and there are (IMO) justifiable concerns that the information which TikTok is generating, and the social engineering which TikTok is capable of conducting, could be under the direction of the Chinese government.

If you, personally, @slicedalone, don’t give a crap about any of that, go you. If you, personally, don’t feel that any of your personal information could be of any value to a hacker, or a foreign government, nothing that any of us can tell you is going to make a difference. But, these are real issues, which experts in the field have been pointing out for some time.

Well written. And this thread is not about actual harm any of us may personally feel by watching cat videos on TikTok; it’s about the risk of doing so. Some may feel the risk/reward equation leans more toward the reward end, and some the opposite - there is no “right” answer. There is ample information exposing the risk of this app (and other social media apps) in this very thread, so it just comes down to how much any of us care about that risk.

I highly doubt any coordinated social engineering is happening on Tik Tok.

The impression I get is that underlying all this is a concern that China is finally reaching a point where they are beating us in some areas. China is now producing quality products** and moving past relying on cheap manual labor. TikTok is outcompeting all the American social media of the same type, and we just can’t have that. That’s probably what some (maybe even most) of the people who want to ban TIkTok are thinking. They just don’t want to come right out and say it.

**. As one example, IMHO Boox (a Chinese company) make the best e-ink tablets in the world. The various Kindles and Nooks just don’t compare.

To repeast, what’s your hidden agenda? Because no one here is intimidating anyone, and the rest of us find the evidence persuasive.

Like the man said, you do you.

How naïve.

Well, they still use cheap manual labor. But how much of this advantage comes from protected internal markets and the theft of intellectual property?


This is very close to an accusation of trolling, which is inappropriate in this forum. If you think the poster has an agenda, just say that. If you think the poster is JAQing off, report the post or the discussion to the mods. Either way, please keep it civil in IMHO.

As I’ve explained, I personally have never used Tiktok and have no intention of ever using Tiktok. I was merely forwarding a straightforward question I heard on NPR yesterday that drew remarkably murky, convoluted, generalized answers from “experts” who seemed more interested in evading a straightforward answer than trying to address the question being asked. And until your answer, which I appreciate, I was getting a lot of the same or similar evasions that basically said “Oh, it’s dangerous” or “It’s complicated” or “China very scary” rather than beginning with something like the

“To be fair, none of that is unique to TikTok; these issues are things that people who use any social media apps should be familiar with”

that you conceded. OK, so to a careful Tiktok user who wants only to watch cat videos, probably no danger at all, but the Chinese are a devious culture intent on doing harm to others and the watcher of cat videos needs to be especially vigilant about unwittingly revealing personal information on Tiktok. Cat-video watchers who are connected to anyone whose movements are potentially useful to enemies of U.S. government security organizations need to be triply vigilant, though IMO this is an issue that parents need to talk to their kids about.