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Worries grow over TikTok’s ties to China


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Read on - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 10/2022 vom 27.09.2022

1 IN 2020, then-U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he would ban TikTok from the U.S., saying that the popular social media app was a risk to national security. TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance, and some officials worried that the app could be used by China to spy on U.S. users.

2 However, banning the app didn’t happen while Trump was president, and President Biden decided to not go forward with it after he took office in 2021.

3 But now some officials are again worried about TikTok’s China ties – new reports show that some TikTok employees have worked for the Chinese government and that some U.S. user data has been seen by TikTok employees inside China.

4 In August, Forbes magazine looked at the public ...

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4 In August, Forbes magazine looked at the public LinkedIn profiles of people currently working for TikTok and ByteDance and reported that 300 of them had worked for Chinese state media companies in the past. These media companies often spread government propaganda.

7 While some are worried about TikTok employees’ past jobs, others are worried about a June Buzzfeed News report that said ByteDance employees in China had access to private U.S. user data between September 2021 and January 2022.

8 At a 2021 U.S. Senate hearing, Michael Beckerman, Tik-Tok’s head of public policy for the Americas, said that all U.S. user data was stored in the U.S. and that backups of that data were stored in Singapore. “We have a world-renowned U.S.-based security team that handles access,” he said at the time.

9 But Buzzfeed says that leaked audio recordings of meetings at TikTok prove that wasn’t true and that U.S. employees often had to ask colleagues in China about U.S. data. “Everything is seen in China,” said one employee.

10 Senators are now asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate TikTok and ByteDance, saying that they have not been honest about who has access to U.S. user data.

11 TikTok has said that it’s true that some employees in China can access some U.S. data, but only if that access is approved by an American security team.

12 They also now say that all U.S. user data has been transferred to Oracle data servers in Texas. Oracle is an American technology company and is not owned by TikTok or ByteDance. Private U.S. user data will be deleted from TikTok’s own data centers, the company says.

13 Some are still worried. Adam Segal, director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that “physical location does not matter if the data can still be accessed from China.” The data, he said, could still end up in the hands of the Chinese government.

Most of the increase is because of fast-growing Acropora coral.

10 The only place where coral cover didn’t increase was in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef, where it decreased to 34 per cent, down from 38 per cent in 2021.

11 AIMS’s CEO, Dr Paul Hardisty, said the decrease in the south was due to outbreaks of the crown-ofthorns starfish, which feeds on coral.

12 Dr Hardisty explained why the results were so good, “The 2020 and 2022 bleaching events, while extensive, didn’t reach the intensity of the 2016 and 2017 events. As a result, we have seen less mortality. These latest results demonstrate the reef can still recover in periods free of intense disturbances.”

13 However, it may not be only good news. According to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Acropora coral is particularly vulnerable to coral bleaching, storm damage and attack from coraleating crown-of-thorns starfish. They think because it’s that coral which made up most of the recovery, the entire reef will be “more susceptible to future impacts of climate change and other serious threats”.

14 Dr Hardisty also expressed concern. He said that the increased frequency of mass coral bleaching events was “uncharted territory” for the reef. “Every summer the reef is at risk of temperature stress, bleaching and, potentially mortality, and our understanding of how the ecosystem responds to that is still developing”, he said.