Microsoft has confirmed plans to acquire TikTok's parent company, ByteDance. The news broke hours after the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, accused Chinese software companies of feeding data directly to the ruling Communist Party.
According to the reports, Microsft CEO Satya Nadella held a conversation with Trump in which the US president agreed to give ByteDance 45 days to negotiate a deal with Microsoft. If the Redmond-based company can successfully purchase TikTok and ensure that all private data of American users is transferred to the United States, a ban would not be necessary. TikTok has already been banned in India as a result of the same accusations.
Pompeo appeared on Fox News on Sunday, claiming that "Chinese software companies doing business in the United States, whether it’s TikTok or WeChat – there are countless more … are feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist party, their national security apparatus". He gave facial recognition data, phone numbers, and home addresses as examples of data that is allegedly shared.
TikTok responded by saying that the user data of Americans is stored in the US, with strict controls on who can access it. A spokesperson said: "We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform."
Trump had threatened to ban TikTok in America "soon" whilst Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, claimed the social media app "risks sending back information on 100 million Americans".
A message to the TikTok community. pic.twitter.com/UD3TR2HfEf— TikTok (@tiktok_us) August 1, 2020
Chinese state media responded to the threat, saying that a TikTok ban would be "a barbaric act of a rogue government". It rejected the security fears that the app shares private data with the Chinese government. TikTok, in response to the news, posted a video to US users saying: "We're not planning on going anywhere." ByteDance, the parent company that owns TikTok, said this morning that it would "adhere to the vision of globalization".
The debate over TikTok is not entirely limited to the popular short video app, but rather a wider US crackdown on Chinese technology companies. Huawei and ZTE have also been ousted under Trump's leadership, with pressure from the US leading to allied nations such as the United Kingdom also removing Huawei from its 5G network plans.
It remains to be seen if Microsoft can complete a takeover of Beijing-based ByteDance before Trump's September 15 deadline. Microsft had already been in advanced talks to buy the American operations of TikTok before Trump's comments, but ByteDance had reportedly been looking to secure a deal that would allow it to retain a minority stake in the company. That has apparently been rejected by the White House.
We'll have to wait and see how this one plays out, but we'll be keeping a close eye on it for you. What do you think of the potential takeover? Let us know below the line.