The US government has launched an investigation into the acquisition of the popular TikTok app by the Chinese company ByteDance. The app could pose a potential threat to national security because China could potentially collect data with the app.
ByteDance took over an app in November 2017, which was then called Musical.ly and which teenagers used to make short karaoke videos. Musical.ly had around 60 million users in the United States and Europe at that time. The Chinese company promised at the acquisition not to integrate Musical.ly into its other Chinese apps. A year later that happened and was incorporated into a similar app from the company, TikTok. TikTok has been downloaded more than 750 million times in the last twelve months. In October last year, TikTok was even the most downloaded app in the US ever – a first for a Chinese app.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and his Republican colleague Tom Cotton called the head of the secret service late last month to open an investigation. According to the Senators, experts must “make an assessment to indicate to what extent TikTok and other US-owned platforms pose a threat to national security.”
“Trust US users and regulators as a priority”
ByteDance told the New York Times that it is the company’s absolute priority to “win the trust of users and regulators in the US”. “Part of that effort is working with Congress, and we are willing to do this,” a spokesperson told the newspaper. He emphasised that TikTok does not provide user data to China.
TikTok cannot be used in China, but ByteDance must comply with Chinese legislation, which includes support for intelligence. That could be a backdoor for espionage from China.