TikTok ban reports see huge VPN search surge

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Rumors of an imminent ban for popular social media app TikTok has sent search traffic for VPN services booming.

Data from Google Trends has shown a huge spike in search interest in TikTok VPN searches after the Trump administration suggested a block on the Chinese-owned app is coming soon.

The US believes that connections between the app's developer ByteDance and the Chinese authorities are too close for comfort, with huge amounts of personal user data being collected by TikTok before being accessed by the latter. 

TikTok has already been banned in India following similar concerns about access to user data, with the country's government saying that stealing the data of its citizens poses a risk to national security.

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TikTok VPN

One leading VPN provider, NordVPN, told TechRadar Pro it had seen a 15% increase in inquiries from the US since news of the possible ban emerged over the weekend.

"Such surges are becoming the new norm, as governments all over the world are imposing more and more internet restrictions, bans, and constraints," NordVPN said in a statement.

"However, we always advise users to be careful online and question any app attempts to gain access to pictures, contacts, voice recordings, location, or other private data. People should be more vigilant and always read the privacy policy, terms of service, and be aware of who developed the app. And this applies to TikTok as well."

TikTok itself says it is committed to user privacy and job creation in the US, telling NBC News that US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls over who can access it. ByteDance has denied handing over any data to the Chinese government.

The ban could be complicated by the fact that Microsoft is pushing ahead with plans to purchase TikTok's operations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The Redmond company had reportedly been in talks with TikTok's China-based developer ByteDance for a number of weeks. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reportedly spoke to President Trump regarding the plans, assuring the President the purchase would be subject to a number of security and privacy improvements, including a move to store all American user data exclusively in the United States.

Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.