Written by: Joe Bartolotta
This past Friday, President Trump pledged to ban popular social media app TikTok from the U.S. in response to data privacy concerns. The Chinese-owned company has faced scrutiny in Washington as concerns grow around China’s ability to tap into the platform to gather data on Americans. TikTok has already been banned for use on official devices by the U.S. Army and is under national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.
TikTok issued a response to these growing privacy concerns stating that “protecting the privacy of our users’ data is of the utmost importance to TikTok.” TikTok spokeswoman Ashley Nash-Hahn stated that “TikTok collects much less U.S. user information than many of the companies in our space and stores it in the U.S. and Singapore. We have not, and would not, give it to the Chinese government.” TikTok has also taken some steps to distance itself from its owner ByteDance by hiring more U.S. engineers to reduce its reliance on staff in China while hiring an American CEO from Disney, Kevin Mayer.
While TikTok has stated that the Chinese government has never asked for user data and would refuse such a request, it is important to consider how well the company could actually resist this type of order. Fortunately, there is a new deal on the horizon between TikTok and Microsoft for a possible acquisition. Regarding this acquisition, Microsoft stated that they “would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.” On Monday, President Trump stated that he would be willing to endorse a deal for a secure American company (like Microsoft) to purchase TikTok from ByteDance, as long as it happens before September 15th.