On Friday, it was reported that President Donald J. Trump was considering, due to national security concerns, a US ban of the social media app, TikTok, a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based internet technology company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos.
President Trump told reporters on Friday, “We are looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok”. He added, “We are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok”.
Lindsay Graham, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, said there’s reason to be wary of the Chinese-owned company sharing users’ data with the Chinese government. “I understand your concerns,” Graham said. “However President Trump is right to want to make sure that the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t own TikTok and most importantly — all of your private data”.
To fans and users of #TikTok I understand your concerns.
However President Trump is right to want to make sure that the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t own TikTok and most importantly — all of your private data.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) August 1, 2020
Microsoft on Sunday released a statement of a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J. Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States.
“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.
Microsoft will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, in a matter of weeks, and in any event completing these discussions no later than September 15, 2020. During this process, Microsoft looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States Government, including with the President.
Among other measures, Microsoft would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States. To the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States, Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the country after it is transferred.
Microsoft appreciates the U.S. Government’s and President Trump’s personal involvement as it continues to develop strong security protections for the country.
These discussions are preliminary and there can be no assurance that a transaction which involves Microsoft will proceed. We do not intend to provide further updates until there is a definitive outcome to our discussions“.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo on Sunday and made the following remarks regarding TikTok, “Well, here’s what I hope that the American people will come to recognize: These Chinese software companies doing business in the United States, whether it’s TikTok or WeChat – there are countless more – as Peter Navarro said, are feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party, their national security apparatus. It could be their facial recognition pattern. It could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends, who they’re connected to. Those are the issues that President Trump has made clear we’re going to take care of. These are true national security issues. They are true privacy issues for the American people”.
Pompeo continued, “And for a long time, a long time, the United States just said, well goodness, if we’re having fun with it or if a company can make money off of it, we’re going to permit that to happen. President Trump has said enough and we’re going to fix it. And so he will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party”.
Bartiromo asked, “Even if Microsoft were to acquire the U.S. assets of TikTok, can you really believe that China’s surveillance is gone from U.S. operations of TikTok“? Pompeo responded, “I promise you, the President, when he makes his decision, will make sure that everything we have done drives us as close to zero risk for the American people. That’s the mission set that he laid out for all of us when we get – we began to evaluate this now several months back. We’re closing in on a solution, and I think you’ll see the President’s announcement shortly”.
Elected officials have criticized TikTok’s security and privacy practices, they have suggested that user data collected through the app might be shared with the Chinese government. President Trump mentioned earlier this month that he was considering banning TikTok. Even Facebook has criticized the app for alleged censorship.
TikTok and Bytedance have been looking for ways to distance themselves from its Chinese ownership in order to reassure the public that no data is stored on servers in China and that the companies operate independently.
President Trump answered questions from the press at a roundtable discussion today after signing an Executive Order on Aligning Federal Contracting and Hiring Practices With the Interests of American Workers. He was asked about the conversation he had with Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella in regards to the TikTok acquisition, “We had a great conversation. It [TikTok] can’t be controlled for security reasons by China too big too invasive and it can’t be and here’s the deal”. He continued, “Whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else, a big company, a secure company, a very American company buys it. It’s probably easier to buy the whole thing than to buy 30% of it“. The President added, “My personal opinion was you’re probably better off buying the whole thing rather than buying 30%. I think buying 30% is complicated and I suggested that he can go ahead and he can try and I set a date of around September 15th at which point it [TikTok] will be out of business in the United States. If somebody, whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else, buys it that’ll be interesting. I did say that if you buy it whatever the price is, that goes to whoever owns it because I guess it’s China essentially but more than anything else a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen. Right now they don’t have any rights unless we give them to them but if we’re going to give them the rights then it has to come into this country”.
“It is a little bit like the landlord/tenant [agreement], without a lease they pay what is called key money“. He added, “I think a deal is going to be made, it’s a great asset. But it’s not a great asset in the United States unless they have the approval of the United States. So it will close down on September 15th unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out an appropriate deal so the Treasury of the United States gets a lot of money“.