Security

Trump Wants to Ban TikTok Unless an American Company Buys 100% of It

By Bill Toulas / August 4, 2020

A couple of days ago, the US administration expressed worries about the national safety risks that arise from the existence and use of the TikTok app in the country, with officials talking about an imminent ban. Simply put, Trump accused TikTok of siphoning American user data and sending it to Chinese servers.

Some have theorized that the president Trump simply seeks revenge for the role that TikTok played in the Tulsa rally fiasco. Still, whatever the case really is, the cogs are already turning, and the software doesn’t have a future as a Chinese entity in the United States.

Microsoft expressed interest in acquiring the American handle of TikTok, which would be about 30% of the company. Reportedly, the tech company was seeking to access the massive amounts of user data that TikTok collects, routing it to at least American-based servers, and in compliance with the CCPA laws.

The app would also offer Microsoft a communication channel to millions of teens who aren’t strongly connected with the tech giant right now. But the demands from the White House are complicating the acquisition discussions, as Trump will accept nothing else that a 100% buyout. Otherwise, the US state fears that any kind of a partial deal maintains an unacceptable level of risk.

In that regards, the US President has made the following statement to reporters, expressing his views in a typical Trump fashion:

“We had a great conversation. He (Nadella) called me to see how I felt about it. I said, look, it can’t be controlled for security reasons by China [...] (it’s) too big, too invasive. It can’t be [...] I don’t mind whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else, a big company [...] American company buys it. It’s probably easier to buy the whole thing rather than to buy 30 percent of it. I said, how do you do 30 percent? Who’s going to get the name. The name is hot. The brand is hot. Who’s going to get the name and who is going to get that when it’s owned by two different companies. So, my personal opinion was, you probably better off buying the whole thing rather than buying 30 percent of it. I think buying 30 percent is complicated, and I suggested that he can go ahead. He can try.”

The deadline for the agreement, if that ever comes, was set to September 15, 2020. If nothing happens until then, TikTok will be ousted from the United States. If a deal goes through, the American government will have to give the final approval, and the US Treasury will get a big share.

Hank Schless, Senior Manager of Security Solutions at Lookout has shared the following commentary with us on the scenario of “no-deal”:

“A ban of TikTok won’t necessarily remove it from everyone’s mobile devices. India banned it, and that took TikTok off the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. This didn’t stop consumers from searching for it on third-party app stores, and then cybercriminals exploited the situation by publishing fake versions embedded with malware. Besides, it won’t erase TikTok from the tablets and phones of people who already downloaded the device. It would be impossible to actively delete TikTok from every device in the United States. Apple, in particular, has taken a hard-line approach to not allowing the government or law enforcement access to its devices. It would be up to Google, Apple, and Microsoft, as the purveyors of the principal mobile operating systems, to enforce a ban and ensure users delete TikTok.”

If Microsoft agrees to a deal with ByteDance, they will have to deal with a lot more besides scrapping the technical side of the app’s operation and deal with a set of complicated legal matters. Microsoft’s very reputation will be on the line after they gain control of such a controversial project, so they’ll have to scrutinize every bit of TikTok to ensure that it could indeed be compliant in the US.



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