Data Sharing: A Matter of National Security

By Melanie Yetman

Technology and Innovation Writer

Increasing levels of data sharing bring about questions of security on a personal and national level. (Photo courtesy of Information Services Group)

The second that you enter your information online, you relinquish your rights to privacy. Every online platform has the means to collect, store, and sell the data and information collected from you. By engaging with these platforms, we are subject to market research, data analysis, and the use of our personal information for advertisement and sales purposes. Essentially, privacy in terms of the internet is an oxymoron.

More so, data sharing has become an increasingly relevant topic as the world goes through the age of digital transformation. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, there is a newfound reliance on online platforms to communicate on both the personal and professional level. Data sharing has become a necessity to ensure efficient collaboration and communication amongst users. For instance, since 2018, prominent online platforms including Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter have been actively participating in the Data Transfer Project; a framework that allows users to seamlessly transfer data across these platforms, enhancing data backup, portability, and sharing. Additionally, these methods of data sharing have proven to be beneficial in the healthcare industry. It has revolutionized sharing a patient’s medical history, expanding medical research, and implementing digital health platforms. However, as digitalization expands across industries, it raises the question – is all data sharing good?

Companies engaging in data sharing store extensive personal information on its users. From personalizing our app experience and advertisements to using the analytics for profit, companies have increased access to personal information via data sharing. Companies might also have access to our location, finances, and medical history which raises several privacy concerns.

According to the United States federal government, data sharing has become a concern of national security. Currently, executive action is being taken against Chinese mobile platforms including Tik Tok, a video sharing application owned by the parent company, ByteDance. The Trump administration deems the application’s collection of data as a threat to national security because the company’s relationship with the Chinese government puts US data and assets at risk. While ByteDance claims that American data is only being held in the United States and Singapore by platforms such as Amazon Web Services, there are allegations of data transfers to China. These transfers have the potential to give the Chinese government access to the personal information of Americans, location tracking of United States federal employees, and the means of corporate espionage.

Furthermore, President Trump has issued an executive order that places a ban on Tik Tok if the company does not sell their United States operations, including user data, to an American company. In response to the United States’ pressure on the sale of Tik Tok, Beijing has tightened their security on data exports. This sale of Tik Tok in the US is still developing and will likely set a precedent for data sharing between the US and China. As the world’s digital transformation continues, data sharing has the potential to become a prevalent conflict in foreign policy and national privacy concerns.


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