I am a member of a group called "Printers for Liberty Worldwide" on LinkedIn, and though we are not many members, I raised the question of whether our industry should be active in warning against TikTok. Governments globally are banning the use of TikTok on employees' phones, and both America and the EU are considering a total ban of the App to avoid surveillance from the Chinese.
I AM worried about the increasing level of surveillance in general and even more when it can be used politically. In my newsfeed today, I read a disturbing story about the huge container cranes in the US. Almost all of the cranes are from China, and now speculations arise whether these can be turned on/off by the Chinese government and even be used to monitor all container traffic in the US. I am, of course, aware that all these speculations also are politically motivated in an information war that, unfortunately, makes our world more and more fragile.
TikTok should probably be banned - not so much for its surveillance capabilities, but the fact that China legislation requires access to all data can be abused, and in the case of TikTok has been abused. The company ByteDance which owns TikTok has admitted spying on the three journalists, Emily Baker-White, Katharine Schwab, and Richard Nieva, who were writing critical stories about the service.
But surveillance is one thing; the real question is what data are being absorbed and how it is used. I haven't used TikTok much, and I must admit that I deleted it because I found it so addicting that it took too much time. A few days ago, I was having lunch with one of my best friends, and we spoke about how much time we spend on smartphones. Will we look back on smartphones a few years from now and re-evaluate our usage, or will smartphones become even more integrated with our lives? I am amazed at how integrated the phone is in my life, being used for travel, GPS, banking, film and entertainment, search, storage, photo & filming, browsing, phone, and storage, and this is just limited to the apps you have on your device.
But ALL apps collect data, and we swipe through terms and conditions without reading, allowing companies to absorb data that probably can't be justified.
Are the Chinese worse than anybody else? Well, it's a dictatorship, and dictators have no limits on how anything that can keep them in power will be used. So this is maybe the biggest challenge.
But let's look a bit at the crane story - or maybe, more precisely, how the crane story could be a warning to all of us. We all embrace Industry 4.0, and an essential part of Industry 4.0 is IoT (Internet of Things). Everything is connected today, and though we don't say "surveillance," in essence, this is what we allow. We allow the vendors to monitor our productions and equipment and even allow them to collect data to optimize productions in general. When called IoT and for the benefit of our productions, we accept surveillance, and maybe the cranes have IoT, and maybe vendors could turn off your equipment.
The surveillance society is a reality, and to imagine that this will be less in the future is almost impossible. The question is how it influences our lives and our so-called freedom. It's not so good! It will challenge our democracies.
And yet we have not even spoken about Alexa, Siri, ChatGPT, and all the other threads we embrace because we now believe the advantages outweigh the disadvantages!