TikTok ban possible in Philippines, security exec stresses

TikTok ban possible in Philippines, security exec stresses
The Philippines is currently evaluating the possible threat posed by the social media video sharing app to the country’s national security.
AFP / Joel Saget

MANILA, Philippines — Video sharing app TikTok could face a nationwide ban if it is proven to be engaged in cyberespionage, a Philippine security official said on Thursday.

Echoing a recent statement by National Security adviser Eduardo Año, National Security Council (NSC) Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya, when asked in a radio interview on the possibility of TikTok total ban in the country, affirmed with a “yes”.

“Iyong mga apps na ganyan may mga features na pwedeng gamitin para malaman ang galawan ng gumagamit — ang location, iyong mga online behavior mo — that could possible compromise national security,” said Malaya, who is tasked to lead an investigation into TikTok.

The possible threat posed by the Chinese-owned app to the country’s national security is now being evaluated, Malaya added.

According to the security official, TikTok being a Chinese company distinguishes it from other social media platforms that could also generate private data from their users.

“Ang pinag-aaralan po namin ngayon is how big a threat is Tiktok to our national security. Ang may-ari po kasi n'yan, ang mother company na Bytedance is a Chinese company and under their law, lahat po ng mga kumpanya sa Tsina ay kinakailangan makipagtulungan sa kanilang gobyerno,” Malaya explained.

“Mayroon po silang batas — National Intelligence Act — na kapag sinabi ng gobyernong Tsina kailangan namin tiktikan ito, ang TikTok ay pwedeng gamitin para malaman kung ano ang ginagawa ninyo, especially kung active kayo sa pagpost kung saan kayo magpupunta at kung ano ang ginagawa ninyo,” he added.

Malaya, however, said that the scope of the ongoing investigation is focused on state personnel connected to the military, police, and other security agencies- precisely because of that specific concern.

“Kaya po kami doon nakatutok sa security sector dahil andoon ang vulnerabilities natin. For example, ang Navy natin, Tiktok sila nang TikTok habang nag-aantay lumayag. So syempre, nagmamanman ang Tsina kung kelan tayo magpapatrol,” said Malaya, referring to the ongoing tension between the two countries in West Philippine Sea.

“Hindi po kasi tayo ang unang naglabas ng alarmang ito. Maraming bansa, particular na sa mga western countries katulad ng Estados Unidos, Australia, European Union, pinagbawal na ang pag gamit ng TikTok sa mga government-issued devices.”

In the spirit of due process, Malaya said the task force has asked TikTok representatives in the Philippines to air its side and submit a position paper to answer the espionage allegations against the company.

He added that the Task Force will wrap up its investigation next month and submit its recommendation to Año before the year ends.

Meantime, he urged government employees in the national security sector to refrain from using TikTok in government-issued gadgets pending the result the probe.

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