The TikTok ‘exclusion act’ of 2022
Following a move conducted by the executive branch, Congress recently moved forward banning the use of TikTok on federal government devices. The purported ban was declared necessary by officials due to national security concerns about the China-based owner of the app, ByteDance. State Universities in Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, and Alabama have also imposed similar bans on TikTok.
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberweter said that the move was “a political gesture that will do nothing to advance national security interests.” The U.S. government is not the first country to ban the social media app; TikTok has been banned in Indonesia and India. In both instances, the ban was temporary and was implemented in the wake of political and border disputes.
What Instagram shared with TikTok was the inclusion of a coding instance called addEventlisteners. This command tracks the user’s activity while on the app. The functional purpose of this command is to gather information on which channels you have engaged with (generally through likes or subscriptions) so that the app can predict your browsing behavior and use these analytics to adjust for your interests. This phenomenon is a feature which exists in many social media sites and applications. Geo-political arguments aside, what is unique about TikTok data gathering is the keylogging behavior of its code. TikTok is distinct from Instagram in that it includes keypress and keydown in its code, which essentially tells the app to function like a keylogger, while potentially storing sensitive information, the user inputs.