Almost Half of People Worry TikTok Would Give Their Knowledge to China
- TikTok’s ties to China prompted President Donald Trump to ban the app in the United States.
- About 48% of Americans believe the app would leak their data to the country, a new book reveals.
- The poll, which was the first to examine US stance on the issue, was shared exclusively with Insider.
- Check out Insider’s business page for more stories.
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Almost half of Americans believe TikTok would share their data with the Chinese government if they asked, according to a survey shared exclusively with Insider.
The app’s connections to China, home of parent company ByteDance, prompted President Donald Trump to attempt to ban it in 2020 for national security reasons.
The poll, the first to examine US stance on the matter, found that 48% of Americans feared that TikTok would honor a Chinese government request for user data if prompted. Around 35% agreed that TikTok posed a national security threat, and nearly half said they did not trust the handling of their personal information.
Among the 18- to 34-year-olds, one of the top populations for the app, 45% believed they would share their data with China.
Opinium’s survey was commissioned for “TikTok Boom: China’s Dynamite App and the Superpower Race for Social Media” by journalist Chris Stokel-Walker, who reported to insiders about the reputational threat posed by TikTok’s ties to China.
“TikTok was at the forefront of the fight for survival in a war waged by Donald Trump for almost six months,” said Stokel-Walker. “This first-time analysis of US public perception shows how damaging a fight was.
“TikTok has not yet achieved a victory in its struggle to survive – and rightly so. While Donald Trump left after his lost election, Joe Biden’s stance on China and TikTok shows that he is equally skeptical of the public. “
The survey revealed:
- When asked if they fear “TikTok might pass my data on to the Chinese government”, 24% “totally agree” and another 24% “tend to agree”. Only 16% disagreed.
- When asked if TikTok poses a national security threat, 17% strongly disagreed and 18% somewhat disagreed, while 22% disagreed.
- Only 19% said they trust TikTok to maintain their personal information, while 48% disagreed.
- 58% agreed that TikTok was “Chinese owned” while 7% disagreed.
Stokel-Walker said: “TikTok has repeatedly denied all allegations of having ties to the Chinese state, and
says categorically not to give out any data on request.
“The main problem is that half the American population doesn’t seem to believe a word of it. It’s an uphill battle for a company that is still fighting the impending closure of the law.
“We’re in love with TikTok as Americans are ditching traditional television and streaming services in favor of the app.
“But users seem to have one eye over their shoulder when entering the app.”
Earlier this week, The Guardian reported polls for the book that found a third of Britons also feared TikTok would leak their data to China.
A TikTok spokesperson told Insider, “Millions of people around the world love to create, share, and be entertained TikTok, and we take our responsibility to protect their information seriously.
“As we made clear earlier, TikTok’s user data is stored on secure servers in the US and Singapore. TikTok has never provided user data to the Chinese government, and neither would we if asked about it.
“This is reflected in our regular transparency reports, which detail the requests we receive from governments around the world.”
Theo Bertram, the head of public order in Europe, told the BBC last June: “To claim that we are in any way under the control of the Chinese government is completely wrong.”
Opinium surveyed 2,006 American adults between March 26 and April 6, 2021.