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TikTok controversy continues amid recent security issues with China

Amid the controversy of Chinese balloons flying above the United States, Congress is discussing a bill that would warn users of the risks that come with using TikTok.

The United States is in a tense standoff with China after a balloon was shot down for suspected spying. The balloon floated over U.S. airspace for about a week before it was taken down.

"You guys have to help me understand why this baby wasn't shot down sooner," Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana told Congress.

The situation reintroduced security concerns between the United States and the Chinese government. Those concerns include the Chinese-based app, TikTok.

The app has been banned from federal government devices and some states are also taking action.

The University of Florida sent an email to students and faculty discouraging the use of the app.

UF electrical and computer engineering professor Christophe Bobda said the data that TikTok collects could be exploited by the Chinese government.

"You don't want your data to be out,” Bobda said. “Just take the case of Social Security. If somebody has your Social Security number, they can file a tax return under your name. We don't know what you become in five or 10 years. Maybe you become a politician, maybe a governor, maybe a president. and then if foreign governments have access to your former data about you, they can exert some pressure."

After the recent uptick in concern, U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack introduced the "Chinese-owned Applications Using the Information of our Nation Act.”

The CAUTION Act requires anyone selling an app that the federal government has banned on government devices to disclose that fact to anyone who downloads, updates, or otherwise uses the app.

“What many Americans across the country view as an innocuous social media app, filled with fun dances, filters and trends is, in fact, a method by which the CCP is collecting information on all users,” Cammack said.

Bobda said the implementation of any ban on a local level would be difficult, but a nationwide ban is certainly on the table.

He said the best way to keep yourself safe is to participate in best practices. He recommended not to click on links you aren’t expecting and to avoid suspicious websites.

Camila is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.
Christopher is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.