The United States is ‘looking into’ banning TikTok amid concerns the social media platform poses a threat to national security, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Monday.
Pompeo told Fox News’ Laura Ingram that he and President Trump are taking claims the app collects users’ cellphone data and then shares the information directly with Beijing ‘very seriously’.
The comments were made by Pompeo when quizzed whether the United States should be considering a ban on Chinese social media apps, ‘especially TikTok.’
‘With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right,’ Pompeo said. ‘I don’t want to get out in front of the President [Donald Trump], but it’s something we’re looking at.’
The top Washington diplomat added that Americans should only download the app ‘if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.’
Pompeo told Fox News’ Laura Ingram that he and President Trump are taking reports that users’ cellphone data may be being shared directly with Beijing ‘very seriously’
TikTok, a short-form video app owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has been repeatedly criticized by US politicians who say they’re worried about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies ‘to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party’
Pompeo’s remarks come amid heightened tensions between the US and China over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak, China’s actions in Hong Kong and a near two-year trade war.
TikTok, a short-form video app owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has been repeatedly criticized by US politicians who say they’re worried about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies ‘to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.’
The app, which is not available for download in China, has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience.
TikTok has said previously that it operates separately from ByteDance and claimed its data centers are located entirely outside of China, and that none of that data is therefore subject to Chinese law.
The app, which has been downloaded more than 175 million times in the US, says data of its American users is stored on servers in the US, and backed up in Singapore.
TikTok has not yet returned a DailyMail.com request for comment on Pompeo’s remarks. A spokesperson for the company told CNN in May that it thinks the national security concerns are ‘unfounded.’
‘I don’t want to get out in front of the President [Donald Trump], but it’s something we’re looking at,’ Pompeo said
TikTok has said previously that it operates separately from ByteDance and claimed its data centers are located entirely outside of China, and that none of that data is subject to Chinese law.
TikTok has already been banned by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Department of Homeland Security, as well as on government-issued mobile devices used by the US Army and US Navy.
New York senator Chuck Schumer wrote to TSA administrator David Pekoske raising concerns about the way the China-owned app handles user data in February.
The TSA responded to Schumer’s letter by announcing that employees will no longer use the app as part of the agency’s social media strategy.
‘TSA has never published any content to TikTok nor has it ever directed viewers to TikTok,’ the agency said in a statement.
‘A small number of TSA employees have previously used TikTok on their personal devices to create videos for use in TSA’s social media outreach, but that practice has since been discontinued.’
A class action lawsuit filed in the US late last year also claimed that TikTok came pre-loaded with Chinese surveillance software.
‘TikTok clandestinely has vacuumed up and transferred to servers in China vast quantities of private and personally-identifiable user data that can be employed to identify, profile, and track the location and activities of users in the United States now and in the future,’ the lawsuit read.
‘TikTok also has surreptitiously taken user content, such as draft videos never intended for publication, without user knowledge or consent. In short, TikTok’s lighthearted fun comes at a heavy cost.’
The app was also recently banned in India along with 58 other Chinese apps after a border clash between the two nations in which 20 Indian soldiers died (Members of the Working Journalist of India (WJI) hold placards urging citizens to remove Chinese apps and stop using Chinese products during a demonstration against the Chinese newspaper Global Times)
The app was also recently banned in India along with 58 other Chinese apps after a border clash between the two nations in which 20 Indian soldiers died.
The Indian government said the apps are ‘prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order’, the Ministry of Information Technology said.
The department added that some of the apps had also been found to be ‘stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India’, though failed to specify the apps allegedly responsible.
TikTok has denied sharing Indian users’ data with the Chinese government.
‘TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and have not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese government,’ TikTok India chief Nikhil Gandhi said last month.
‘Further if we are requested to in the future we would not do so. We place the highest importance on user privacy and integrity,’ he said.
The Australian government is also said to be considering banning TikTok. Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Fergus Ryan said TikTok was full of mass surveillance and propaganda.
The app also censored all anti-China opinions and had the ability to feed information straight to Beijing, Mr Ryan said.
He said it was ‘no question’ the Chinese Communist Party had a hold of the data as there are members of the party within the company.
Reuters reported late on Monday that TikTok would exit the Hong Kong market within days, deciding to do so after China’s establishment of a sweeping new national security law for the semi-autonomous city.