In response to escalating apprehensions regarding TikTok‘s potential security risks and ties to China, the Philippines has initiated a comprehensive security assessment of the popular video-sharing app. The National Privacy Commission (NPC) officially announced the inquiry on Friday, expressing the need to investigate TikTok’s data processing practices and evaluate its compliance with the country’s data protection laws.
As one of TikTok’s significant markets in Southeast Asia, the Philippines boasts over 40 million monthly active users on the platform. Despite its popularity for entertaining content, concerns have emerged over the app’s potential threats to national security and user privacy. The NPC intends to collaborate with regional regulators to formulate a unified approach to address these concerns effectively.
Owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, TikTok has faced scrutiny across various countries over alleged connections to the Chinese government. Fears of espionage, data breaches, and potential propaganda usage have fueled debates on whether the app poses a risk to national security. TikTok, however, consistently denies any wrongdoing and emphasizes its independent operation from Beijing.
TikTok—A Dangerous Platform?
While TikTok is celebrated for its short videos encompassing dance, comedy, music, and social issues, critics in the Philippines, including lawmakers and activists, have advocated for a partial ban or restrictions. Their concerns extend beyond data privacy to accusations of content censorship, particularly content critical of China or supportive of the Philippines’ territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, who filed a resolution in September urging a government investigation into TikTok’s operations, views the app as a potential “Trojan horse” exposing Filipinos to cyber threats and foreign influence. He emphasizes the need for vigilance in safeguarding national interests and security from potential foreign intrusion through social media platforms.
The NPC’s investigation will delve into TikTok’s data collection, storage, sharing, retention policies, as well as security measures and transparency mechanisms. Additionally, it will scrutinize the app’s compliance with the rights of data subjects, such as access, correction, and deletion of personal information. The NPC anticipates concluding its investigation by the end of the year, with recommendations or sanctions to follow.
TikTok has welcomed the NPC’s probe, affirming its commitment to cooperating fully with authorities. The company emphasizes its dedication to safeguarding user privacy and security, highlighting ongoing efforts to enhance data protection practices. In a statement, TikTok asserts its mission to inspire creativity, foster a positive environment, and protect all users, especially younger ones, through robust policies, processes, and technologies.
As the NPC navigates this investigation, it aims to ensure that the privacy rights of Filipino TikTok users are respected and protected. The outcome will likely influence the regulatory landscape surrounding social media platforms in the Philippines and potentially set precedents for similar evaluations globally.