Trump campaign runs ads claiming TikTok is spying on users

Platform Economy: TikTok and US politics

President Trump’s re-election campaign ran ads over the weekend that made claims that the controversial Chinese-owned short video app TikTok is spying on its users.

KEY POINTS:

  • Trump’s re-election campaign runs ads on Facebook claiming the controversial Chinese app is spying on users
  • ByteDance claim Facebook is about to launch software similar to TikTok

The Facebook adverts link to a survey asking potential respondents whether TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech business ByteDance, should be banned in the US. The ad also asks for the names and contact details of respondents.

“TikTok is spying on you,” claimed one ad. “TikTok has been caught red handed by monitoring what is on your phone’s clipboard,” it stated.

TikTok is facing scrutiny in Washington over concerns that China could force the company to turn over its user data.

Earlier this month, Mike Pompeo, the current Secretary of State said that the US was “certainly looking at” banning Chinese-made social media apps, including TikTok. This follows a move by the Modi-led government in India, which banned TikTok and over 50 major Chinese apps back in June.

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Many governments across the world have started to look at Chinese technology businesses across both the platform economy and in the telecoms sector with growing suspicion. This trend is without much evidence, but still increasingly becoming an issue.

TikTok has said that it has never provided user data to China and that it would not do so if asked, and a spokeswoman told reporters at the news agency Reuters on Monday the company has “no higher priority than promoting a safe app experience that protects our users’ privacy.”

Last month, when Apple released to developers a test version of its iOS operating system with new privacy features, developers showed images of TikTok’s app triggering notifications that it was copying data from users’ clipboards, where data is temporarily stored while copying and pasting from one app to another.

TikTok said the notifications were caused by an anti-spam feature but it ended the practice June 27.

FACEBOOK PREPARING TO LAUNCH A TIKTOK COPY

Additionally, TikTok hit out at Facebook for running the ads.

“Facebook is taking money for a political ad that attacks a competitor just as it’s preparing to launch a TikTok copycat,” the spokeswoman said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company’s photo-sharing app Instagram will soon be expanding its test of a short video format called Reels to the US, according to media reports.

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Initial reporting via our content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford. editing by Jonathan Oatis. Comment by Rob Phillips.

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