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TikTok’s second transparency report isn’t all that transparent

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Privacy concerns surrounding TikTok continue to grow following the company’s second transparency report which pretends its home country doesn’t exist. Despite disclosing hundreds of data requests from governments all over the world, the report alleges a grand total of zero of them came from China.

The consensus explanation among industry watchers is that TikTok doesn’t officially exist in the Far Eastern country. Instead, its creator – ByteDance – operates Douyin, a de facto clone of TikTok. As you might have guessed, Douyin doesn’t publish transparency reports and any data requests filed by the Chinese government would likely go through that particular brand.

Back to the transparency report at hand, the video sharing platform said it received 500 data requests from law enforcement and other government agencies of 26 countries in the second half of 2019. The vast majority of them came from India, which recently banned the app as a result of growing tensions between New Delhi and Beijing over everything from their Himalayan border dispute to calls for coronavirus origin investigations.

The regulatory clock is going tick-tock

As TikTok is closed-source software, there’s no easy way of verifying what the app is doing on any particular device in real time. Even if that wasn’t the case, there are no guarantees your data isn’t being forwarded to third parties once it leaves your smartphone.

This is pretty much the bulk of the argument recently outlined by the U.S. government. State Secretary Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that Washington is looking into banning the app due to national security concerns. TikTok, for its part, rejects any such allegations, but also isn’t answering media inquiries about the exact extent of authority the Chinese government holds over its business.

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