TitTok and the war: the White House tries to protect personal data and explains the conflict in Ukraine

Of Massimo Gaggi

After Trump’s threats, convinced that the app was selling Americans’ data to Beijing, Biden is preparing new regulations to protect them. Meanwhile, the White House has organized a “private” briefing for 30 successful creators and influencers

NEW YORK – Once upon a time there was a very successful social network that, as soon as it was born, it had become hugely popular with kids from all over the worldintent on posting short music videos, dance videos or even jokes, acrobatics, tricks, satirical jokes. A harmless fair of the ephemeral to which, however, the then President Donald Trump declared war two years ago: he suspected that, behind the frivolous appearance, TikTok could become a channel capable of allowing China – a great strategic opponent of the US and able to control this social network through the ByteDance company – to have access to the personal data of millions of citizens Americans.

Trump threatened to ban TikTok if its American assets had not been sold to a US company. The company first assured that it would never give private data to the Chinese government (but in the Asian country there is a law that does not allow you to hide behind the constraints of confidentiality in front of a request for information from the state), then negotiated a sale to American partners, but without giving up the controlling stake. The president said that was not enough and continued to threaten, but did not go through with it.

Joe Biden, who succeeded Trump, is preparing new rules to restrict the access of foreign apps operating in the US to the personal data of American citizens. But today the TikTok problem in the United States is seen in a completely different light: Chinese company executives are negotiating with Oracle an agreement that could meet Washington’s need for prevent the export of personal data to China of its citizens, while the White House at the end of last week organized a “private” briefing for 30 highly successful creators and influencers of a network that, with the war, it became the information channel most used by the very young. And that it was the first, on the eve of the invasion, to document the preparations of the Russian troops.

During the meeting, Biden’s spokesperson Jen Psaki and Matt Miller, Head of Communications at the National Security Council, they illustrated the strategy of the US government and answered questions about arms supplies to Ukraine, on aid to refugees, on US collaboration with NATO, on the risks of nuclear conflict. Connected via Zoom, there were many TikTok stars recently switched from posts on trendy music and products to information on conflict. In the end, disparate judgments: satisfied Kahlil Greene, an African American boy who has 534,000 followers, while for Jules Suzdaltsev, Ukrainian influencer of the Good Morning Bad News channel, the White House organized a useless event, a kindergarten briefing.

In any case the strategic role of the network is now being recognized and the solution to the problem of US user data devised by TikTok seems to be acceptable to the US government, even if some uncertainty remains about the actual “armor” of the database of US citizens. Basically, according to the plan, called Project Texas, TikTok will entrust the American strategic partner Oracle with the management of American user data (already deposited on servers located in the USA and Singapore, the company guarantees).

They will pass to Oracle also the systems used to detect “viral” videos, the most successful, and the algorithm of the personalized recommendation page. That the data is really inaccessible to the Chinese owners of TikTok still has to be proven. The company would use a rule that prohibits managers in a country from transferring data overseas. If the devised mechanism is accepted by the US government, TikTok will also use the same method in European countries.

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