RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — About a dozen universities and half of the states across the country, including North Carolina, are blocking the use of TikTok in some form. Those restrictions including limiting the app on devices or internet networks.
The China-based company’s CEO is scheduled to testify in front of Congress next month over concerns about privacy and data collection.
“An action on TikTok alone does little to address the privacy and surveillance concerns coming from those major U.S. social media apps,” said Robyn Caplan, a visiting assistant professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and a founding member of the Platform Governance Research Network. The organization studies politics and policies of internet platforms. She’s keeping a close eye on increasing TikTok restrictions.
“The general consensus, from what I’ve seen in the privacy community, is that they reflect geopolitical tensions more than necessarily privacy risk,” said Caplan.
She says TikTok’s data collection isn’t out of step with what Meta and Twitter do. The difference with TikTok is the concern that Chinese government officials have access to American data.
“Without effective U.S. privacy laws that impact similar data collection practices among U.S. companies, banning TikTok at large is really not going to do much to assuage concerns about surveillance, particularly among this this age group,” said Caplan.
Phil Napoli is a professor of public policy at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, researching new ideas for social media regulations. He says the U.S. lacks some basic privacy protections.
“We’ve seen in the European Union, there’s much more expansive privacy protections than we see here. In the U.S., it’s this very reactionary approach,” said Napoli.
He questions whether we can put the TikTok horse back in the barn.
“It would be nice if guidelines and restrictions were in place before these platforms have reached this incredible degree of prominence,” Napoli said.
TikTok isn’t the first social media company to testify before Congress. Napoli is hopeful the bipartisan zeroing in on TikTok could prompt change this time.
“Even something heavy-handed would be a huge change from the inaction we’ve seen across the spectrum of digital platform issues over the past few years,” he said.