NEWS AND OPINION: This is a rapidly emerging story which frankly is alarming but unsurprising. The basic tenor of the story is that the Chinese government is using TikTok, a highly popular social media Internet website, to spy on citizens and state machinery including employees working for governments. There are and have been pressures in the governments of these countries to remove the app from government and government agencies. As I understand it, in the US, some state governments have already done this.
It is not entirely clear to me how TikTok are spying but one possibility is that when you use the TiKTok app, TikTok software is injected and embedded into your computer and/or your phone which allows them to spy on you.
The former deputy prime minister of Australia, Barnaby Joyce, has gone further than that and suggested that TikTok might be able to actually see you through your smartphone camera. And then send that imagery back to TikTok’s parent company which is ByteDance, which then sends the information to the Chinese government in real time.
Balloons and Huawei
It seems extraordinary but we know that the Chinese government is using all kinds of techniques to spy on the rest of the world to gain an advantage over the rest of the world both commercially and when it comes to conflict. What about the recent spy balloons shot down over the United States?
And, for example, America and the UK are pulling out all the routers and software and hardware put in by the Chinese telecommunications giant, Huawei because they believe that these systems, which the West have bought into until now, can send information back to China. This is particularly the case if the hardware and software is embedded into government offices and other facilities.
Chinese businesses must work for the state
And we know that the Chinese government has a very strong stake in businesses in China. It seems to me that it is a duty of private Chinese businesses to work on behalf of the Chinese state.
A new national intelligence law introduced into China in 2017 states that “any organisation and citizen [shall] support and cooperate in national intelligence work”.
Long term vision
This seems to be the work, ultimately, of the president for life, Xi Jinping. The Chinese like to work very long term. They set grand plans in motion and think in terms of 20 or 30 years to achieve their goal. This is something most Western governments have difficulty achieving because being democratic they have to provide instant or near instant success in their policies.
China is a dictatorship and they can think long term because they don’t have to please the citizens, the masses.
And the website Mashable.com has a disturbing headline today, “TikTok admits to spying on US users as effort to ban the app heats up”. Apparently ByteDance ran an internal investigation and the results have been released. They confirmed that four of its employees in China had picked up data of two TikTok accounts belonging to US journalists.
TikTok spying all over the news
If you ask Google to provide information about TikTok news, everything is to do with TikTok spying and where that may lead. It might lead to TikTok going bust or being sold to an American giant such as Microsoft.
When TikTok administrators are asked about these matters they dodge the question. Sen Ted Cruz, says that it is clear that TikTok is spying on users.
Cat world on TikTok is massive
Now to the cat world. TikTok is full of cat videos. There are probably billions of photographs of cats on the Internet and on TikTok there are probably hundreds of millions of videos. The point is that there will be a lot of TikTok users who are potentially exposed to spying by China. They might know where they are and what they do. They may even track people through GPS. They may link into a TikTok user’s laptop computer because often smartphones are linked into desktop and laptop computers.
And on laptop computers there is a plethora of information about the user of that device.
Ban in US government departments
As I understand it, government departments in America and elsewhere are banning the use of the TikTok app because they have genuine fears about being spied upon. TikTok has more than 1 billion active global users. In Australia it was the third most downloaded app in 2021.
What I’m saying is that cat lovers and TikTok influences should be aware of this and make up their own minds about whether they want to delete the app on their smartphone and give up being TikTokers. This is highly unlikely because TikTok is designed to be addictive. Users feel that they have an identity. They feel that they are no longer invisible and therefore they won’t give it up.
One way that TikTok makes itself addictive is by, for example, employing software in their app to make the user look more attractive. They are making women look attractive who are not attractive. This is highly addictive and very damaging potentially. We know how many young users have developed self-image problems. They believe they are ugly because they compare themselves with other users who have prettified themselves on social media. This TikTok software exacerbates the dangers of living in this fake, prettified world.
It seems quite plausible to me that the Chinese government were engaged in creating the TikTok app, designing it to be addictive with the intention of always spying through it. What I’m saying is that China’s government might have been there at the inception of TikTok.