A new poll conducted by child advocacy nonprofit Parents Defending Education revealed that over two-thirds of parents are not comfortable allowing their children to use TikTok without adult supervision, including 73 percent of younger parents aged 18 to 34.
The group found that 37 percent of parents agree that China is using TikTok to spy on or manipulate Americans, especially children, and that the U.S. government should step in and ban the platform as it is a threat to national security.
Meanwhile, only 17 percent of Americans believe that the platform was “not collecting any information that puts Americans at risk.”
Snapchat remains as the least trusted app, with at least 74 percent of parents saying they were “not that comfortable” to “not comfortable at all” with their children using the app without adult supervision. TikTok is second at 68 percent, while Twitter came in third at 66 percent. Facebook and Instagram are not far behind at 63 percent.
“From intrusive surveys in the classroom to data security to social media platforms, families are deeply worried about Big Tech’s influence both inside and outside school,” Parents Defending Education President Nicole Neily said.
“Parents desire more knowledge about – and control over – what their children have access to, and want policy changes that will empower them to keep them safe.”
Their concerns are valid.
For instance, China can allegedly access American user data through TikTok. ByteDance, the app’s parent company based in China, has cited video and audio clips in internal meetings attesting to this. “Everything is seen in China,” a TikTok Trust and Safety Department member said in a September 2021 meeting.
Meanwhile, Facebook does not even know where data is stored. When two Facebook engineers were asked in a court hearing where personal user data is stored, they said they didn’t know the answer.
Eugene Zarashaw, an engineering director, reportedly said: “I don’t believe there’s a single person that exists who could answer that question.”
Twitter, on the other hand, mishandles user data. In a whistleblower complaint sent to Congress, the company’s former head of security Peiter Zatko noted “serious deficiencies” in the handling of privacy, information security and fundamental architecture. Problems cited in the complaint include “ignorance and misuse of vast internal data sets,” “mishandling personally identifiable information” and “misrepresentations to the Federal Trade Commission” about those matters.
Government leaders warn against using TikTok
TikTok has over a billion users, an estimated 135 million of which are from the United States.
Government leaders, including former President Donald Trump, have warned people against its use over the past few years, saying that the Chinese government could use the app to collect data or launch influence operations through the platform.
Even the U.S. military banned its members from using the app on government devices or at all in late 2019 and early 2020. The same went with the Transportation Security Administration and some other federal agencies.
With its vast number of users, TikTok is clearly a potentially rich source of personal data, and the Biden administration is now preparing a series of executive orders to address its use and the Chinese tech sector’s access to data.
While it isn’t clear what dangers the app can have on American security, the bottom line is that it is owned by ByteDance, with some employees having access to user data.
**By Mary Villareal