User Data, Regulation, and Free Speech: An Examination of the TikTok Debate in the United States

Chinese social media platform TikTok has grown significantly in popularity over time and is now a crucial player in the entertainment sector. But as the social networks has gained popularity, worries about user data sharing and privacy, have risen to the fore.

According to a recent OnePoll study, a huge 83% of Americans think that these platforms are dangerous for their nation and its people. Given the tense state of ties between the United States and China right now, many believe that the government ought to intervene and control these applications.

Dr. James Hendler from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, concur that some sort of regulatory intervention is required. They argue that, considering the delicate nature of US-China ties, the government should take action to safeguard user data and privacy. He draws attention to the probable link between TikTok and the Chinese government, which some people find concerning due to national security reasons. If it is determined to be a real threat, the US government could take necessary action to protect national interests.

Although, two-thirds (68%) concur that the First Amendment would be violated if the American government were to outlaw the social media app Tik Tok, according to a study of 2,000 social media users conducted by OnePoll.

Hendler, though, thinks that there is much more to it. A number of cases involving the existing regulation of social media—which is arguably more accurately referred to as the current lack of regulation—were brought before the court. Hendler noted a few items that are categorically forbidden, including the use of child pornography and other forms of encouragement to terrorism. However, one issue arises: How far distant from there must that be?

Moreover, constraints placed on free speech by the government are highlighted by Dr. Hendler's perspective. According to the survey's findings, the majority of Americans (57%) are mostly worried about fraudsters getting access to their personal information, however concerns about both, US (45%), and foreign governments (50%) are also substantial.

Dr. Hendler notes the bipartisan agreement that action is required in the data domain but emphasizes the challenge of creating rules in the absence of well-established precedents.

However, majority of Americans (53%), have images of themselves, their legal name (50%), their children (47%), their homes (46%) and their political allegiance (33%) ,On social media, other people share their religious beliefs and values (31%), gender (28%) and work title (23%).
Hendler claims that beyond security issues, U.S. law permits the sale of such data to be used for anything from sending you more specifically targeted advertisements to raising pricing for particular online consumers.

Additionally, the poll found that more than half (54%) of Americans are unaware that online shops are permitted to change their rates for each visitor depending on the personal information that is gathered.

Moreover, the majority of Americans (82%) are worried about the sale of their personal information by social networking applications, and they think that soon the government will step in.

Nearly four in five (79%) think that other governments and institutions will likely follow Texas Governor Greg Abbott's recent decision to prohibit TikTok on state-owned phones and computers as well as Texas colleges' decision to do the same.

Lastly, Hendler also thinks that legislation will alter, but not immediately. Some of these items are not governed by law. Nothing is in black and white. There are many ambiguities. Systems of law flourish in these dark situations. In that grey region, people aren't always as pleased. Many of these privacy rights and other issues will fall into those unclear zones.

Read next: Social Media Companies Fanning the Flames of TikTok Ban to Poach Influencer
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