ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, is rushing to save the app’s U.S. operations by asking the administration to allow it to sell the unit to Microsoft.
Comments from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested on Sunday that further action against a wider range of Chinese tech companies would follow.
“These Chinese software companies that do business in the United States, whether it’s TikTok or WeChat – there are countless more. . . provide data directly to the Chinese Communist Party, their national security apparatus, ”Pompeo told Fox News.
“President Trump has said ‘enough’ and we will fix it and therefore he will take action in the coming days regarding a wide range of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party.
Mr Pompeo, however, did not elaborate on the scope of the proposed action. The National Security Council refused to provide clarification.
Speaking specifically of TikTok, Mr. Pompeo said Mr. Trump “is getting closer to a solution.”
The United States has claimed that ownership of TikTok by ByteDance means that the data of US citizens can be used by the Chinese government. Mr. Trump told reporters on Friday that he intends to ban TikTok from the United States.
In a deal with Microsoft that was under discussion before Mr Trump intervened, 1,500 staff, TikTok’s intellectual property and technology would pass to the US tech giant, and ByteDance would not retain any interest in US company TikTok. .
Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the US Treasury, said on Sunday that TikTok could not continue to be owned by ByteDance and operate in the United States. Mr. Mnuchin chairs the Government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or Cfius, which is reviewing ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly – the precursor to TikTok – for national security reasons.
“The president can force a sale or the president can block the app. . . and I’m not going to comment on my specific discussions with the president, but everyone agrees that it can’t exist as it is, ”Mnuchin said.
U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed concerns about the threat from Beijing using sensitive data that has been collected by tech companies with Chinese ties to U.S. citizens. Earlier this year, Kunlun, the Chinese owner of Grindr, was forced to sell the popular gay dating app to investor group San Vicente Acquisition after intervention by Cfius.
White House Trade Advisor Peter Navarro last month accused TikTok and the Chinese app WeChat of sending user data to the Chinese Communist Party, which could then be used “for blackmail and extortion. As well as for the “information war”.
Asked whether a potential sale of TikTok to a US-based company such as Microsoft would be sufficient to protect US user data, Mr Pompeo said Mr Trump would “ensure that whatever we made us lead to a risk close to zero for the American. people ”.
Several Republican senators spoke on Sunday in favor of an acquisition, rather than a ban, of the company.
Marco Rubio, senator from Florida, said on Twitter that if the company and its data were purchased and “secured by a trusted US company,” it would represent a ” [and] acceptable result ”. Senator John Cornyn described a purchase by an American company as a “win-win”.
Senator Roger Wicker said such an agreement would be a “victory for American consumers” but added that “strict security measures must be part of any agreement in order to protect consumer data and ensure no foreign access “.