Does TikTok Have a Ticking Clock? - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Does TikTok Have a Ticking Clock?

Does TikTok Have a Ticking Clock?

In the past year, TikTok, a video-sharing platform, has become one of the most popular social media apps.1 It has been downloaded approximately 175 million times in the United States and one billion times globally.2 Like Instagram, Facebook, and Google, TikTok can gather information about users such as “age, email address, phone number, location, payment information, contacts, IP address, and model of phone.”3

However, the main difference between TikTok and similar technology is that TikTok is owned by ByteDance, one of the largest technology companies in China.4 With the recent passage of the extremely broad Chinese securities law, there is growing concern that user’s data will be obtained by the Chinese government.5

Some companies, such as Wells Fargo, have demanded that their employees delete TikTok from work devices due to security concerns.6 Similarly, government agencies like the Transportation Security Administration, Homeland Security as well as military personnel were also told to delete the app.7 India has fully banned TikTok and in the coming months, the United States may do the same.8

In the beginning of August, the Trump Administration issued an executive order banning the use of TikTok in the United states, effective forty-five days after the passage of the order, based on the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act.9 The President cited national security concerns, specifically, that data collection from Tiktok “allow[s] the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information—potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”10 The order also states that TikTok reportedly censors content that Chinese government finds “politically sensitive.”11 A week later, the President issued another executive order giving TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, ninety days to divest all ownership in TikTok.12

Users of the app are also concerned with potential security issues. Several lawsuits from parents on behalf of their minor children were filed in both California and Illinois, claiming that data regarding their “facial characteristics, location, and close contacts” are being accessed by China.13 Plaintiffs’ lawyers are now seeking to turn the suit into a nationwide class action.14

In response to these allegations, TikTok has released more information on its policies regarding users’ data.15 The company stated that user data is stored in Singapore and is not subject to Chinese law.16 It is also attempting to distance itself from China by hiring an America CEO17 and accepting the U.S. technology company Oracle’s bid to become TikTok’s technology partner.18

TikTok has also filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, accusing the Trump Administration of failing to provide any evidence to support their allegations against the company, depriving TikTok of due process of law.19

Many Americans disagree with the executive order, stating that the ban is a form a censorship, the first step to authoritarian control similar to China.20 Instead, some advocate for legislation and standards that protect people’s privacy and prevent data from being misused by companies such as TikTok.21

With strong claims coming from both sides of the debate, it is difficult to know how big a threat, if any, TikTok poses to national security and whether or not there is adequate protection of user data. With the impending litigation both against and initiated by TikTok, hopefully more truth will come to light.


  1. See Zak Doffman, Is TikTok Seriously Dangerous—Do You Need To Delete It?, Forbes (July 11, 2020, 5:07 AM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2020/07/11/tiktok-seriously-dangerous-warning-delete-app-trump-ban/ – 407560142b0e/ [https://perma.cc/B37X-VMA7].

  2. Proclamation No. 13942, 85 Fed. Reg. 48,637 (Aug. 6, 2020).

  3. Matt Burgess, Should America ban TikTok?, Wired (July 13, 2020), https://www.wired.co.uk/article/tiktok-ban-shutdown [https://perma.cc/W5FH-5ZQU].

  4. Kevin Roose, Don’t Ban TikTok. Make an Example of It., N.Y. Times (July 26, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/26/technology/tiktok-china-ban-model.html [https://perma.cc/W6SH-8CWQ].

  5. See Burgess, supra note 3.

  6. Roose, supra note 4.

  7. Proclamation No. 13942, supra note 2.

  8. Doffman, supra note 1.

  9. Proclamation No. 13942, supra note 2; see Roose, supra note 4.

  10. Proclamation No. 13942, supra note 2.

  11. Id.

  12. Mike Isaac et al., TikTok Sues U.S. Government Over Trump Ban, N.Y. Times (Aug. 24, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/24/technology/tiktok-sues-us-government-over-trump-ban.html [https://perma.cc/S4Q4-JHAF].

  13. Bobby Allyn, Class-Action Lawsuit Claims TikTok Steals Kids’ Data And Sends It To China, NPR (Aug. 4, 202, 1:39 PM), https://www.npr.org/2020/08/04/898836158/class-action-lawsuit-claims-tiktok-steals-kids-data-and-sends-it-to-china [https://perma.cc/YCU7-6XFW].

  14. Id.

  15. See Louise Matsakis, Does TikTok Really Pose a Risk to US National Security?, Wired (Aug. 17, 2020, 3:10 PM), https://www.wired.com/story/tiktok-ban-us-national-security-risk/#:~:text=Tick%20Tock%2C%20TikTok&text=Critics%20say%20that%20TikTok’s%20massive,the%20app%20from%20their%20devices [https://perma.cc/YCA7-88CB].

  16. Burgess, supra note 3.

  17. See Roose, supra note 4.

  18. David Sanger, Oracle Chosen as TikTok’s Tech Partner, as Microsoft’s Bid Is Rejected, N.Y. Times (Sept. 13, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/13/technology/tiktok-microsoft-oracle-bytedance.html [https://perma.cc/X946-4FEN].

  19. Isaac, supra note 12.

  20. See Roose, supra note 4.

  21. See Matsakis, supra note 15.

Talia Bulka

Talia Bulka is a second-year J.D. candidate at Fordham Law and is a staff member of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal. She is also a member of the Fordham Information Law Society. She received a B.A. in Political Science and a minor degree in Business and Liberal Arts from CUNY Queens College.