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TikTok has gained great polarity World Wide but recently it got a blackslash in its expansion in the United States. The US politicians claim this app to be a National Threat. The US President, Donald Trump, himself said on Tuesday, 8 July 2020, that his administration is “looking at” banning the app. TikTok is owned by a Chinese Company, Byte Dance, which could also be a reason of its ban.

It is also a matter of fact that TikTok is one of the most popular apps in the US, especially among the youth and has been downloaded 165 million times! TikTok had previously been highlighted as the potential US spying threat. However, TikTok has pushed back and called these claims”baseless”. Nevertheless, TikTok’s recently hired American CEO has said it has “never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

Although leaders like Pompeo have described TikTok as a clear and present danger, many in the cybersecurity community say the reality is more complex. While TikTok could become a clear threat to US security under certain scenarios, they say, the danger is currently largely hypothetical or indirect. Some analysts also say the matter is complicated by Trump’s aggressive approach to China overall — arguing the situation is a reflection of the administration’s political priorities. Experts have raised similar concerns about Trump’s approach to Huawei, the Chinese tech giant, saying Trump has inappropriately conflated national security with trade negotiations.

To understand why policymakers view TikTok as a risk, it helps to know how the company works. TikTok is owned by the world’s most valuable startup, a Chinese company named ByteDance. But TikTok does not operate in China and functions as an independent subsidiary.Policymakers’ chief worry is that ByteDance could be forced to hand over TikTok’s data on US users to the Chinese government, under the country’s national security laws. TikTok has said it stores American user data on US-based servers that aren’t subject to Chinese law; skeptics argue TikTok’s parent, ByteDance, is ultimately a Chinese business that’s still beholden to Beijing.But several security experts told CNN Business that, although TikTok’s links to a private Chinese company are worthy of concern, the app simply wouldn’t be that useful for espionage.

“It’s right to be suspicious of the Chinese,” said James Lewis, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a security think tank. “But I’m not sure TikTok is a good intelligence tool for them.”

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An alarming technical report about TikTok this year has only added to the concerns about its security, though experts say there is an important distinction between identifying individual security gaps and labeling something a threat to national security.

In January, a team of security researchers announced they had found several vulnerabilities in TikTok. The flaws, if left unpatched, could have let attackers gain control of TikTok accounts, change the privacy settings on TikTok videos, upload videos without permission, and obtain user data such as email addresses.

The discovery raised important questions about TikTok’s ability to safeguard user privacy. But company engineers appeared to operate in good faith, according to Oded Vanunu, a security specialist at Check Point Research, who led the group of researchers that announced the findings. TikTok, he said, seemed motivated to fix the flaws.

What’s more worrying about TikTok?

Even as technical experts describe TikTok’s espionage risk in mostly theoretical terms, policymakers argue TikTok could still threaten US interests in softer ways — by influencing the global conversation on its platform. And in this respect, some experts warn, the danger is already being felt.TikTok has faced mounting criticism, for example, over its handling of content that’s critical of the Chinese government.

Last year The Guardian reported on leaked documents that it said instructed moderators to clamp down on critiques of socialism and Tiananmen Square. ByteDance told The Guardian at the time that those guidelines were outdated.In November, allegations of politically motivated censorship increased when several former US employees of TikTok told The Washington Post they often felt pressured to clamp down on videos that their colleagues in Beijing found subversive, prompting Schumer and Cotton to express concerns in their letter to intelligence officials.

TikTok has said that its content and moderation policies are developed by a team of American employees and that the policies are not influencedby any foreign government. TikTok’s investors include large international names such as Sequoia Capital and Softbank, and in May, the company hired Kevin Mayer, a former Disney executive, as its CEO.

In addition to restricting some speech,TikTok could become a major platform for misleading speech, policymakers and security experts fear. Reports have already found Pizzagate conspiracy theorists on the platform and users spreading false claims about the coronavirus. And if TikTok were to suffer a data breach, said Vanunu, it might be that much easier to target users with bogus information that could undercut American democracy.

So TikTok’s handling of content and user data could plausibly weaken US power and influence, experts say, but more abstractly than directly spying on government officials or monitoring troop movements.

That says more about the US’s lack of policies regulating data, privacy and platforms than it does about TikTok, many of them said.”I think people are blending a lot of different values here related to human rights, privacy, censorship — and it’s at risk of getting bundled into a security argument,” said Karl Grindal, a cybersecurity expert at Georgia Tech.

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Trump’s ex-Russia adviser Fiona Hill: US increasingly seen as ‘object of pity’

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“We are increasingly seen as an object of pity, including by our allies, because they are so shocked by what’s happening internally, how we’re eating ourselves alive with our divisions,” Fiona Hill, who was a witness in the Trump impeachment hearings, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Tuesday during the Citizen by CNN 2020 conference. “We’re the ones who are creating all this. It’s not the Russians or the Chinese or anyone else. We are doing this to ourselves.”

Asked whether the US is still seen as a model, Hill replied, “Unless we get our domestic act together, no.”

Her comments come on the heels of a recent Pew Research Center survey among 13 nations that found America’s reputation has declined further over the past year among its key allies, with part of the decline linked to the United States’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“What is really eroding our standing is what people are seeing happening here in the United States,” Hill, who was a national security adviser until she left the administration last summer, told CNN on Tuesday.

She said it’s the “bungled handling of Covid, on top of race relations, on top of our political polarization and the spectacles that we’re presenting to the outside world is what’s really pushing all of this.”

Hill said it would be “difficult” for NATO to survive under a second term of President Donald Trump, adding that the US needs to “revitalize our commitment to NATO.”

“Right now, most of our closest allies, not just partners and other major players, do not see the United States as leading. They see us as quite the contrary, as being so consumed with domestic problems that we really can’t do anything very much at all,” she said.

During congressional hearings in the 2019 impeachment inquiry, Hill warned that the Republican defense of the President — by peddling Ukraine conspiracy theories — was in danger of extending Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

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House hits pause on spending vote as Hill leaders resume talks

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Both Democrats and Republicans are eager to reach a deal to avert last-minute drama, though the two parties have squabbled for weeks over various funding and policy provisions in the continuing resolution, which would buy more time for negotiations on a broader spending deal.

“The talks continue, and hopefully we’ll reach an agreement,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday, though he did not comment when asked if he’d spoken with Pelosi.

Without a spending agreement, top Democrats and Republicans would find themselves exactly where they don’t want to be just weeks before the election — perilously close to the Sept. 30 deadline with no agreement to keep the government open.

A deal had appeared to be coming together on Friday, including tens of billions of dollars in farmer payments that Republicans sought in exchange for $2 billion in pandemic-related nutritional assistance that Democrats wanted.

But last-minute objections to the trade relief — including Democratic concerns that the president is leveraging the money to boost his reelection chances — tanked the talks. House Democrats ultimately released stopgap legislation on Monday that lacked both provisions, drawing the ire of McConnell, who tweeted that it “shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need.”

Both Pelosi and McConnell have been adamant about avoiding yet another government shutdown under President Donald Trump, and have supported a bill to extend funding through mid-December.

Senate Republicans on Monday said a lack of relief for farmers in the stopgap spending bill is problematic. But most stressed that it’s not worth shutting down the government in protest and said their side of the Capitol could still attempt to amend the bill.

“We could offer an amendment to try to put it back,” Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said of the trade aid on Monday. “Or we could vote against the CR. But I’m for running the government. I’d prefer to keep the government running.”

Asked if Republicans would be willing to spend more on food-related assistance in exchange for the farm aid, Shelby said Tuesday: “I’d listen to reason on that.”

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, slammed the lack of assistance for farmers. But when asked if Republicans would shut down the government without it, he replied, “No.”

As of Friday, Democrats had dropped a request that would extend the Census Bureau’s Dec. 31 deadline to turn over apportionment data used to divvy up House seats to the president — potentially punting the final handling of census data to Democratic nominee Joe Biden if he’s elected this November. Democrats had also failed to secure $3.6 billion in election security grants.

The GOP demands for farm aid, however, have emerged as a sticking point for many rank-and-file Democrats, who have been increasingly irate about Trump’s blatant use of farm aid for political purposes. That includes a campaign rally in Mosinee, Wis., last week, where Trump touted the taxpayer money as if it were a gift from him.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the No. 4 Senate Democrat and ranking member of the agriculture committee, this week criticized Trump’s use of the program as a “slush fund” and argued Republicans have been unwilling to agree to stricter guardrails around how the aid can be spent.

“This is not just a political fund for the election,” she said.

Helena Bottemiller Evich contributed to this report.

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Nicola Sturgeon Has Banned Household Mixing In Scotland And Claimed English Measures Do Not Go Far Enough

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has banned household mixing (Credit: PA)


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Nicola Sturgeon has announced a ban on households mixing in Scotland, claiming experts say the restrictions introduced in England by Boris Johnson do not go far enough.

The first minister said the Scottish government’s top experts had warned the curbs announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday would not make a big enough impact on Covid-19 transmission rates.

“The advice given to the Cabinet by the chief medical officer and the national clinical director is that this on its own will not be sufficient to bring the R number down,” she told the Scottish parliament.

“They stress that we must act, not just quickly and decisively, but also on a scale significant enough to have an impact on the spread of the virus, and they advise that we must take account of the fact that household interaction is a key driver of transmission.”

Mr Johnson has imposed a 10pm curfew on the hospitality industry from midnight on Thursday, as well as a legal requirement for those working in the sector, and in retail, to wear masks.

The PM stopped short of preventing different households from socialising with each other outside of local lockdown areas, but said people should work from home wherever possible.

Mrs Sturgeon said she planned to impose similar restrictions on pubs, bars and restaurants but would also go further.

“To that end, we intend as Northern Ireland did yesterday to also introduce nationwide additional restrictions on household gatherings, similar to those already in place in the west of Scotland,” she added.

Earlier in the Commons, Mr Johnson claimed the four nations of the UK were following “similar” restriction plans, despite Northern Ireland announcing on Monday that it would ban socialising between households.

This applies in places like pubs and restaurants as well as in people’s homes.

In Wales, people are not allowed to mix indoors with people outside their own household or support bubble, and meetings or gatherings indoors even within an extended household is limited to six people.

Reports suggest insiders were worried about the prospect of Mrs Sturgeon diverging and implementing a “circuit-breaker” of stricter measures – leaving the actions of Mr Johnson’s government further exposed should they fail.

Some members of the prime minister’s frontbench – including Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Priti Patel – are believed to have lobbied for lighter intervention, while other cabinet ministers were in favour of a more drastic approach.

Mr Johnson told MPs: “I want to stress that this is by no means a return to the full lockdown of March.  We’re not issuing a genuine instruction to stay at home, we will ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open.”

He added: “We will continue to act against local flare ups, working alongside councils and strengthening measures where necessary.”

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