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User Beware: We Still Don’t Know How Oracle Will Treat US Consumer Data
President Trump approved a tentative deal over the weekend that allows TikTok to stay in U.S. app stores for now. On Friday, officials had announced WeChat and TikTok apps would be banned, citing national security concerns as the reason behind the expulsion of the Chinese-owned apps.
Lee McKnight is an associate professor in the Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) whose research specialty includes cybersecurity.
“Tik Tok has been guilty of being a fast-growing phenomenon, which exposed its sloppy technical practices to scrutiny, as happened with Zoom. The list of Tik Tok vulnerabilities and flaws patched or not (yet?) patched properly over the past months is long. Whether they were just sloppy like typical Silicon Valley companies, or malicious, would require access to classified information to say for sure one way or another.
“Going forward, the separation of U.S. user data from control of the ByteDance parent through the Oracle acquisition is a significant change; but of course, we don’t know yet how Oracle will treat U.S. consumer data. If no better than say Facebook or Google….user (still) beware.
“The issue of control of the software coding highlighted by Senator Rubio is – sort of – a true concern. But since the bulk of the software would be in Oracle’s data centers, presumably Oracle can detect anomalous data flows back to China; or encrypted data exiting their data centers for points unknown. So, not a serious problem at the infrastructure level. For data flows from user devices, similarly, Apple or Google’s Android OS could detect anomalous encrypted data flows exiting user devices, so that is also not necessarily a serious concern. If we can trust Google and Apple to protect users over their Chinese market positions.
“But clearly the biggest security threat to Tik Tok user data remains the Chinese Communist Party, and the People’s Army, which even if they cannot come in through an open backdoor, have shown no hesitation to steal and/or censor data and information to suppress dissent. ByteDance the parent corporation, and its founder and CEO Zhang Yiming, are always subject to pressure and control of the CCP, which can make even the CEO of the most valuable startup in the world, disappear. In 45 seconds.”
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