The app is caught in the crosshairs of political tensions. But the way it gathers data is no different from Facebook

It’s a tough time to be a TikToker. The video-sharing platform owned by the Chinese technology giant ByteDance has been censured in India, accused of “spying” by the president of the United States, and has provoked the ire of former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith in the UK. Listen to the prognostications of some politicians or visit certain corners of the internet and you’d think TikTok was a deep-state plot to capture your data so it can be mined by Chinese spies.

The truth is more complicated. We happily hand over just as much data to plenty of other apps, including many based in Silicon Valley, and much of the same data we produce when using apps such as TikTok is also posted on YouTube and shared through Facebook. If we’re worried about Chinese snooping, then it’s worth remembering the revelations first aired seven years ago about the US National Security Agency eavesdropping on all our communications. While TikTok may have been described as a “data-collection service”, the same could also be said of Facebook or any other popular social media platform.

Related: TikTok halts talks on London HQ amid UK-China tensions

Related: TikTok fails to shake off authoritarian links to Chinese state

Chris Stokel-Walker is a UK journalist based in Newcastle. He is the author of YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars

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