The US government plans to ban social media app TikTok because it is deemed a security threat, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Tiktok, a video app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has 65-80 million active monthly users in the US. They share 15-second videos using music, filters, and quick edits.
More than 175 million downloads were recorded by TikTok in the US. Meanwhile, it has 1 billion users around the world.
However, legislators want an investigation of TikTok’s affairs with its parent company and the Chinese government. They also want to determine whether those reported relationships carry a counterintelligence threat in America.
During an interview with Fox News, Pompeo said that President Donald Trump’s administration is “certainly looking” at banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok.
Pompeo considered TikTok as a security threat. He also said the company is sharing users’ information with the Chinese government. Fox’s Laura Ingraham asked him if he would recommend people to download the app. “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.
However, a TikTok spokesperson said on ABC News that the company is “led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users.”
The spokesperson also denied that TikTok provides Beijing information. “We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”
On its website, TikTok stated that it “does business through subsidiaries of ByteDance Ltd., which is backed by global institutional investors.”
The app also announced it would remove the app from Hong Kong because of the threat posed by the new national security law imposed by Beijing in the city.
“In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” a TikTok spokesman said when Reuters asked them about its presence in the market.
The short form video app owned by China-based ByteDance previously said that the user data on the app is not stored in China.
Now run by former Walt Disney executive Kevin Mayer, TikTok has also previously said that it would not grant any requests from Beijing to censor content or for access to the social networking app’s user data, nor has it ever been requested to do so.
Access to data
However, Pompeo has labeled all Chinese firms as a security threat because of the Chinese internet security law, which permits the government to access their data. He did not disclose specific proof that Beijing has asked for that information from TikTok.
The State Department did not give any more details. An official from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence refused to give a statement about any intelligence assessment on TikTok.
“Every Chinese technology company is required by Chinese law to provide information they obtain, or information stored on their networks, to Chinese authorities if requested to do so. All Americans should be concerned that their images, biometrics, locational and other data stored on Chinese apps must be turned over to China’s state security apparatus upon request,” the official told ABC News.