Other Apps From Chinese Developers Are Also at Risk theguardian.com

Amy Hawkins and Helen Davidson, the Guardian:

In theory, many of the accusations that have been levelled against TikTok – such as that it is bad for children’s mental health or engages in censorship of political topics – should be less applicable to other Chinese apps that are popular in the west. Fast fashion and cheap cosmetics are less controversial than algorithmically delivered content that is seen as shaping young minds. And shopping apps like Temu and Shein are dependent on physical supply chains, so they are less able to change or mask their Chinese links.

But US lawmakers have warned that any Chinese-owned apps could be vulnerable to data privacy breaches or interference from the Chinese Communist party.

This was one of the problems with last month’s TikTok hearing: the lack of focus muddied any substantive discussion which may have accidentally occurred. Because some lawmakers were preoccupied with the effects of social media on the health of children, their questions to TikTok’s CEO were a mix of legitimate worries about all social media apps, private parenting concerns, and moral panic.1 Others spent time questioning the influence of the Chinese government, with one representative calling the app a “Chinese spy balloon in your pocket”.

Setting aside the questionable logic of that metaphor, if privacy and security are topics of concern, banning individual apps is a laughable countermeasure. Not only will it be an extraordinary amount of work — especially with all the time the government will spend in court because of how it is legally dubious — but it will be useless so long as the United States lacks strong privacy legislation.

By the way, though this Guardian article and, therefore, my response are focused on the U.S., it applies similarly to countries around the world, including the one I live in. The something we have here is better than nothing, but it is nowhere near as effective as it needs to be. The question is whether the Canadian government will grow a spine and prohibit things which will necessarily render some parts of our digital economy unviable.

  1. The recently passed bill in Montana which, upon being enacted, will ban TikTok in the state contains this excellent preamble:

    WHEREAS, TikTok fails to remove, and may even promote, dangerous content that directs minors to engage in dangerous activities, including but not limited to throwing objects at moving automobiles, taking excessive amounts of medication, lighting a mirror on fire and then attempting to extinguish it using only one’s body parts, inducing unconsciousness through oxygen deprivation, cooking chicken in NyQuil, pouring hot wax on a user’s face, attempting to break an unsuspecting passerby’s skull by tripping him or her into landing face first into a hard surface, placing metal objects in electrical outlets, swerving cars at high rates of speed, smearing human feces on toddlers, licking doorknobs and toilet seats to place oneself at risk of contracting coronavirus, attempting to climb stacks of milkcrates, shooting passersby with air rifles, loosening lug nuts on vehicles, and stealing utilities from public places […]

    Moral panic as law. Many of these either predate TikTok or are complete fiction↥︎