It seems TikTok may only be the first pin to fall, after the US administration confirmed that it will be taking action against other Chinese-owned apps which operate in the USA.
“These 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,” US secretary of state Mike Pompeo told Fox News today.
Vowing to take action, he said: “President Trump has said ‘enough’ and we’re going to fix it and so he will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist party.”
Mr Pompeo did not expand on the scope of the proposed action, however.
The White House is currently in the process of either banning or forcing the sale of the US division of TikTok to Microsoft, a deal rumoured to be worth $5 billion, and which would result in the transfer of 1,500 personnel, data and intellectual property to Microsoft, with Bytedance not retaining any interest at all.
“The president can either 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 everybody agrees it can’t exist as it does,” said Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury secretary.
A month ago White House trade adviser Peter Navarro accused TikTok and Chinese app WeChat of sending user data to the Chinese Communist Party, which could then be used “for blackmail and extortion” as well as “information warfare”.
Earlier this year Kunlun, the Chinese owner of Grindr, was forced by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to sell the popular gay dating app to investor group San Vicente Acquisition.
When asked whether a potential sale of TikTok to a US-based company such as Microsoft would be enough to protect American users’ data, Mr Pompeo said Mr Trump would “make sure that everything we have done drives us as close to zero risk for the American people”.