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The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

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Safeguarding society

Every time you open your phone to check social media, companies harvest your data. Whether by tracking your search history to figure out your interests or using your device’s Internet Protocol (IP) address to monitor your location, your phone is a constant hub for data collection by the creators of the apps stored on your phone.

One such app, TikTok, is a threat both to the privacy of millions of United States citizens and to the national security of the U.S. Therefore, it is crucial for the U.S. government to turn House Resolution (HR) 7521 into law.

TikTok is one of the most popular social media apps in the U.S. According to Pew Research Center, the app is used by 33% of American adults and 67% of American teens. Given its popularity in the U.S., it is used by many people as an important source of information and connectivity with others.

What makes TikTok more dangerous than other American companies like Microsoft, Meta, Apple and Google is that ByteDance, the owner of TikTok is beholden to Chinese law instead of U.S. law. This means that the data harvested from TikTok is controlled by a country deemed an adversary by the U.S. government.

The bill would force TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, to sell the app to a company or organization not “controlled by a foreign adversary.” The term “foreign adversary” includes North Korea, China, Russia and Iran.

HR 7521, a bill titled “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” passed the House of Representatives on March 13 by a vote of 352 to 65. However, it faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.

Numerous headlines have referred to HR 7521 as a bill that would “ban” TikTok. However, the bill actually gives ByteDance 180 days before a ban that would force the sale of the app.

Furthermore, it seems unlikely for ByteDance to refrain from selling the app if forced to. According to the Financial Times, $16 billion of ByteDance’s total $120 billion revenue came from TikTok’s U.S. operations in 2023.

This means that ByteDance would lose approximately 13% of its revenue, which would be devastating for ByteDance if they decided to not sell the app.

An example of a company that could buy TikTok is Microsoft, as they previously considered buying TikTok when Trump threatened to ban the app in 2020. Alternatively, a group of investors could come together to buy the app.

The law, which provides the Chinese government this control, is the People’s Republic of China National Intelligence Law of 2017 which states that “any organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate” with the Chinese government. Given that ByteDance is a Chinese company with its headquarter in Beijing, this law means that the Chinese government can require ByteDance to hand over any and all information on TikTok.

These dangers aren’t a far off a possibility. In 2021, ByteDance was forced to pay $92 million in a class-action lawsuit because they had harvested the personal data from TikTok users without their consent, and shared it with third parties in China.

So, if you truly care about your privacy and that of your friends and family, then you should make your voice heard about this issue. Teenagers account for a large share of TikTok users and we should let Congress know that we care about having our privacy, and U.S. national security, protected.

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About the Contributor
Ari Kittrie
Ari Kittrie, Managing Editor, Web
Being a Reporter and Opinion Editor during the last few years, Ari is ready to take on the position of Managing Editor. His experience includes being an Election Judge for the Montgomery County Board of Elections and volunteering for various politicians from all levels of government. Additionally, Ari enjoys in his free time wrestling, volleyball, and sometimes cooking.  

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