Daily Herald opinion: As TikTok concerns Congress, all social media should be addressed

Like many of our readers, we aren’t quite sure what to think of the potential TikTok ban introduced by Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.

Because the information gathered by the platform is classified, everyone is left wondering how dangerous a social media app can be to our national security. It’s unclear what private information China is gathering and how it could be used against us.

But the legislation does make us rethink the question of online privacy, not only on TikTok but on all social media platforms. They all collect our data. If China can use this information to harm us, we should be concerned about how the owners of any app could gather and use our personal information.

In her recent story on the possible TikTok ban, reporter Jenny Whidden talked to Facebook followers who had similar strong feelings on the topic.

“Facebook collects data. Instagram collects data. Twitter collects data — well, X. Every single one of them collects data. If your issue really is data privacy, then why aren't those also being considered?” said Brianna Powvens of Gurnee. “We don't want China taking our data, but we're okay that the U.S. is collecting data. I think that's a point that's missed.”

It is.

Maybe what this country really needs is a national privacy law regulating how consumer data online can be collected, used and shared.

Because if not TikTok, then another social media platform possibly owned by China or another foreign interest can also be a threat. We know kids jump from platform to platform, either out of boredom or to outrun their parents. It happened with Facebook and Instagram, and there are plenty of parents now on TikTok enjoying cat videos or discovering new recipes. So there will constantly be bigger and better platforms entering the market to attract the next generation of users. If we don’t have an overarching social media privacy law, then where’s the safety guarantee on that shiny new app?

We all deserve protection of our private and personal information, and this should be a priority for Congress.

The other lesson learned here is that we can all control what information we put on social media platforms. We can limit what we post and share and what’s private or public.

Think about this every time you log onto social media, whether it be TikTok, Snap, Facebook, Instagram or any other platform. Think about what could be done with your personal information, not just by China but by hackers or anyone trying to steal your identity or disrupt your life.

Think about security questions you answer when you log onto bank or credit card websites. Could someone find compromising information by scrolling your social posts? If the answer is yes, an audit of your social media accounts should be a priority.

Keep yourself safe, and in the meantime, we hope legislators look at the bigger social media picture and set a national policy regulating how our personal information can be collected, used and shared.

In this era of a chaotic and sharply divided Congress, the lobbying powers of big tech companies and questions about what constitutes privacy, this would be difficult to do but not impossible. And it is critically important.

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