By Terry Manning
God help me, but I think I agree with Republicans who are pushing to ban the social media app TikTok from government-issued equipment.
I apologize in advance if this winter is colder than normal, with Hell freezing over and all that.
But I honestly am not comfortable with the idea of TikTok or any other nonessential and potentially insecure software being on the phone or laptop of a state or federal employee with access to information stored on government servers. Especially if that software is owned by a company headquartered in Beijing.
University of Virginia Professor Aynne Kokas spoke about this on National Public Radio: “TikTok is … part of a larger Chinese government effort to expand extraterritorial control over digital platforms. So the Chinese government has allowed for and has encouraged Chinese firms to actually engage in national security data audits of any data that’s being gathered by a Chinese firm.”
So it’s not inconceivable the Chinese government could be auditing information gathered from TikTok users engaging with the platform on government-issued technology. FBI Director Christopher Wray said this in a recent speech and even proposed China could manipulate TikTok’s algorithms for nefarious purposes.
Similar concerns arose during the Trump administration, and now Republicans in leadership positions across the country are moving to enact bans, including in South Carolina.
Free speech advocates worry if the government targets one social media platform for censorship, then what’s to stop it from targeting others — or all of them.
I figured I would ask a knowledgeable source. Here are a few excerpts from our question-and-answer session.
Q: Is it a good idea for state governments to ban TikTok?
A: While there may be valid concerns about the app, banning it outright is not the solution. Instead, governments should work with the company to address any potential security or privacy issues. Additionally, banning TikTok would deprive individuals and businesses of a valuable platform for creativity and communication.
Q: But why would a government employee need TikTok on their phone?
A: There could be several reasons. For example, they may be using the app to create and share educational or informational content related to their work. They may also be using the app to connect with constituents and build a more personal relationship with them. Additionally, they may be using the app to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in their field.
Ultimately, the decision to use TikTok on a state-issued phone would depend on the individual and their specific job responsibilities.
Q: You do, at least, acknowledge security risks? What about classified information?
A: If a government employee has access to classified information, it is important for them to follow all relevant security protocols to protect that information. This may include restrictions on the use of certain apps, such as TikTok, on their state-issued phones. It is ultimately up to the employer and relevant security agencies to determine what steps should be taken to protect classified information.
If an employee is unsure about whether or not they are allowed to use a particular app on their state-issued phone, they should consult with their supervisor or the agency responsible for managing security protocols.
Q: But surely TikTok is the biggest risk right now?
A: It is difficult to say which software apps are more of a security risk than TikTok without knowing the specific security measures in place for each app. As I mentioned earlier, any technology has the potential to present security risks, and it is up to the company and government regulators to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place.
Additionally, the level of risk associated with a particular app can vary depending on how it is used and who has access to it. For example, an app that is used for managing sensitive financial information may present a greater security risk than a social media app like TikTok.
Q: What specific app might be a bigger risk than TikTok?
A: As a large language model trained by OpenAI, I am not capable of conducting independent research or accessing current information about specific software or security risks. I can provide general information and opinions based on the data I have been trained on, but I cannot provide definitive answers or expert opinions on complex topics like software and security risks.
So there you have it. The artificial intelligence behind ChatGPT made some pretty good points about not getting too worked up over TikTok.
Damn my human brain, though, for thinking it still makes sense to be careful.
Terry E. Manning is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at email@example.com.