TikTok Insanity

I'm doing my best to sort through the latest U.S. vs. China political rhetoric about TikTok after the Trump administration threatened to ban the app. Forgetting the legal, philosophical, and political implications, it's technically harder to do than it sounds. You can make it illegal to use, but preventing people from accessing an app that's already on their mobile devices would require unprecedented cooperation from both Apple (APPL) and Google (GOOG GOOGL). While TikTok's mobile website is not as full-featured as its app, all you'd need is a VPN to get around a domestic ban.

Then, yesterday, the President said that if TikTok's U.S. operations are sold to a U.S. company (Microsoft MSFT is the potential buyer), the U.S. should "get a piece of the transaction." As far as I can tell, the government (local, state, and federal) has collectively taken a piece of every transaction in the history of transactions. Are they looking for an extra piece? Moving on.

With all due respect to the current administration, if there is a problem with TikTok, the problem is that — at its core — TikTok is a remarkably sophisticated AI model that literally tunes itself to your behaviors with a single goal: addicting you to TikTok. This is going to be an issue no matter who owns the app.

The administration's fear is seriously misdirected. There is no evidence that China has (or even could) weaponize TikTok data to further its national interests. It doesn't have to. TikTok is already near (or at) the top of the list of the most addictive social media apps. The behavioral data that TikTok (and all of the data-elite social media apps) collects should be seriously examined and thoughtfully regulated. (I do not have high hopes for such discussions or regulations, but we need to do something.) I'm not concerned about China; I'm concerned about how easy it is to take advantage of American data promiscuity.

Shelly Palmer is Fox 5 New York's On-air Tech Expert (WNYW-TV) and the host of Fox Television's monthly show Shelly Palmer Digital Living. He also hosts United Stations Radio Network's, ...

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