One former sorority sister at Auburn, for example, “did a new TikTok dance every day promoting Auburn Zeta Tau Alpha so people would see how much fun she was having with her ‘zisters,’” Ms. Franco said, adding that it would be a “huge hit” to Greek life at Auburn if the university’s ban extended to sorority TikTok accounts and related hashtags.
Ms. Franco said that she was not concerned about the security risks prompting the ban — a sentiment echoed by other students, including Ms. Hunt.
“From what I’ve heard and talking with my friends, I think we all have the same opinion that it just seems silly and not very warranted,” Ms. Hunt said. “While I do understand the concern around not knowing where your data is going, that’s not a TikTok-specific thing and all social media apps collect your data.”
The reactions from students reflect a significant disconnect between TikTok’s most avid users in America and the increasingly bipartisan concerns about privacy and security risks. Many lawmakers and regulators in the United States argue that TikTok can share sensitive data about the location, personal habits and interests of Americans with the Chinese government, and that the app can be used to spread propaganda.
A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress last month would ban the app for everyone in the United States. The attorney general of Indiana has sued TikTok, accusing the company of being deceptive about the security and privacy risks posed by the app.
Many lawmakers felt vindicated in their fears last month when ByteDance said that an internal investigation found its employees had inappropriately obtained the data of U.S. TikTok users, including that of two reporters. The company said that the employees involved in the scheme — two in China and two in the United States — had been fired. The Chinese company sought to emphasize its data security efforts over the past 15 months and its recent work moving the data of U.S. TikTok users to a cloud storage system operated by Oracle, the Silicon Valley software company.
For now, the ban has not appeared to change the lives of undergraduates too much.
When students opened the TikTok app on the campus Wi-Fi last week, they were able to see only the most recently posted video and no comments, according to Ms. Ambus. But students can still access the app on their own devices, through their personal Wi-Fi or cellular service. Ms. Franco said that when a teacher asked about the ban in her sports in America class last week, students said that they didn’t care about it and that they were still actively using TikTok.