TikTok, Covid-19 and Cyberwar: we’ve never been more watched
By Dane Avanzi
As in the film “The life of Truman”, the common citizen is increasingly watched, not only in Brazil, but, in general, in all places of the world. Few people know, but Google has access to all of your steps since you activated a Gmail account or purchased a smartphone. How not to be tracked? Not having a smartphone and not having an account on any social network. Radical, right? Yeah. If you do not want to disconnect completely, you will continue to be monitored in your most everyday habits and the most hidden details of your life and personality. To prevent these data from being exploited and sold to large corporations, the General Data Protection Act, already in force in Europe and the United States, begins to apply in August 2020 in Brazil.
In times of pandemic and post-pandemic, when people’s habits are being radically changed in all areas, such information can help countries and large corporations to build new empires and fortunes, whether by mapping new demands for products and services, either by remodeling existing business models.
All of this information these days is processed by supercomputers, Big Data software, in large volumes, called metadata. In addition to this scenario, Cyberwar between the United States and China in the struggle for world hegemony, which becomes more and more fierce every day, and behold, without warning a new player appears on the board. The TikTok app, created and controlled by a Chinese company, has more than 1.5 billion users worldwide. This new social network has as a differential the global mapping of the main trends of hashtags of the moment, besides making it possible to create videos and memes with special effects and quickly viralize videos of unknown people, making them celebrities.
Like other social media, it has mechanisms for collecting data from its users similar to that of Facebook and other American companies, and this has greatly bothered the American authorities. Linked to this, TikTok is differentiated by the possibility of acquiring cryptocurrencies and making transactions such as buying emojis, for example. With the rise of digital currencies, would it be part of the Chinese strategy to spread a new global currency? I think so. In the recent past, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and former NSA (National Security Agency) analyst, the American National Security Agency, Edward Snowden, have revealed to us the intense Cyberwar between the USA and China, which has only ever since fierce. In China, everyday activities for Brazilians, such as accessing YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp or searching for a topic on Google, are almost impossible, since they only have information on social networks and Chinese communities.
Such control is possible thanks to a central system of computers and software that centralize all access and exchange of files made in Chinese territory with the rest of the network in the world, nicknamed in the digital universe as “Great Firewall of China”, in reference to the Great Great wall of China. Such apparatus controls all online content in circulation in the country, barring what is considered inappropriate. As the expression suggests, a firewall is a protection barrier that can block access to content considered unwanted. This gives them a considerable advantage in this hegemonic dispute, since Chinese citizens, with rare exceptions, are unaware of social networks and the rest of the world. As a result, China today interacts with all countries in the world, knowing and influencing their cultures, but no foreign company is able to influence and interact with Chinese society. This is the main reason why American authorities and companies are uncomfortable.
In this context, for more than half of the 20th century, the USA was the great hegemonic power in the world. However, in recent decades, China, with the exception of military might, presents itself as the great candidate to occupy the world leadership of the new digital economy that emerges, breaking paradigms, breaking frontier barriers and establishing new ways of feeling, thinking and to live. Since ancient times, the saying goes that “knowledge is power” – now, more than ever, this power shapes the human mind and shapes new realities.