TikTok, the video social media app that’s wildly popular with young people, is banned from work phones by the federal government, as well as numerous state governments and corporations. The worry is that the app collects data about users that the Chinese government can access. When TikTok’s CEO testified before Congress on Thursday, his attempts to reassure skeptical members of both parties didn’t appear to affect the growing chorus of calls for an outright ban on the app in the U.S.

But what is the actual threat, and is it unique to TikTok? If the Chinese government can get hold of this information, what could it do with it? And is a ban even possible, given that 150 million Americans use the app?

Iowa State University cybersecurity researcher Doug Jacobson tackles these questions, and points to another worrying aspect of the app: the algorithm it uses to serve content to users.

This week we also liked articles about toxic teen friendships, obscure 17th-century Italian masterpieces and Trump’s call for protests.

Eric Smalley

Science + Technology Editor

Is a wildly popular social media app a threat to the U.S.? AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Should the US ban TikTok? Can it? A cybersecurity expert explains the risks the app poses and the challenges to blocking it

Doug Jacobson, Iowa State University

Banning TikTok: What data privacy risk does the app pose, and what could the Chinese government do with data it collects? And is it even possible to ban an app?

Villa Aurora in Rome, which houses works by Caravaggio and Guercino, is up for sale. Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

In a Roman villa at the center of a nasty inheritance dispute, a Caravaggio masterpiece is hidden from the public

Monika Schmitter, UMass Amherst

What will happen to this villa and its unique collection of 16th- and 17th-century ceiling paintings?

A celebrity’s engagement ring can cost millions of dollars. Noam Galai/Getty Images Entertainment

Who keeps the engagement ring after a breakup? 2 law professors explain why you might want a prenup for your diamond

Naomi Cahn, University of Virginia; Julia D. Mahoney, University of Virginia

Just like the rest of us, celebrities take different approaches to deciding who gets the engagement ring when they get engaged but never tie the knot.

The Conversation Quiz 🧠

  • Here’s the first question of this week’s edition:

    Tennessee just passed a bill that prevents what from being performed in public spaces?

    1. A. Baby talk to dogs
    2. B. Shakespeare’s “Othello”
    3. C. Drinking and ax-throwing
    4. D. Drag shows

    Test your knowledge