TikTok in your car: Good or evil? As potential US ban looms, questions arise

TikTok is under the scanner in the US over suspicions that the Chinese government has significant incluence over it.
The updated Mercedes E-Class is expected to come with a slew of new apps, including TikTok.
The updated Mercedes E-Class is expected to come with a slew of new apps, including TikTok.

Just when TikTok was all set for its debut in passenger cars in the US, there is a larger ban on the app that is looming for it over the American horizon. Increasing security concerns around TikTok and suspicions that the Chinese government has a substantial influence over it has led to alarm bells ringing loud.

The popularity of TikTok around the world and specifically in the US has been quite impressive. Such has been the rate of acceptance that the social media app has around 150 million active users in the US alone. And with the development of cutting-edge, in-cabin technologies in modern-day vehicles, it was only a matter of time before TikTok teleported itself from phones to cabin displays. The updated Mercedes-Benz E-Class, scheduled for an official US launch late 2023, will come with an updated MBUX that may include TikTok. That is unless of course, the app is banned by the US government.

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While Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Kallenius said the decision to include certain apps in certain regions depends on its popularity in that region, TikTok may be very relevant in its home base of China. There is no confirmation on whether US customers of the E-Class too would get TikTok in the car but much of that decision would hinge upon TikTok's overall fate here.

TikTok - owned by Chinese internet technology company ByteDance - has already been banned from US-government-owned devices. This has led to speuclation of a wider ban. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was recently grilled in the US Congress for several hours. Chew underlined that the app does not share data with the Chinese government. But many lawmakers may not have been entirely convinced, some of them even pointing to the ban imposed on the app in India.

India had banned TikTok in June of 2020. It was a blanket ban. Many other countries partial bans in place, and the list includes Canada, UK, Denmark and Taiwan, among others. With increasing focus on in-car data and the security and privacy around this, the times ahead could potentially be more challenging for apps such as TikTok.

First Published Date: 24 Mar 2023, 16:09 PM IST
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