The US government has demanded that TikTok be sold to an American company, or else it may face a ban in the country due to concerns over national security risks arising from the data collected from millions of users. TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, confirmed this request for a change in ownership, stating that a forced sale would not affect its data flows or access.
According to reports, the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States has unanimously recommended that ByteDance divest from TikTok to create a clear separation from China. The White House has yet to respond to these developments.
TikTok confirmed it had been contacted by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) and did not dispute the Wall Street Journal’s reporting on the issue. However, a spokesperson for the company claimed that the reporting was exaggerated, and the meaning of “divestiture” was not clear.
The spokesperson argued that a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access and that the best way to address national security concerns was through transparent, US-based protection of user data and systems. The company had already initiated Project Texas to move US-based data to the US, and it plans to continue with the initiative.
TikTok has faced criticism due to the large amounts of data it collects on users, including biometric and location data, which has raised concerns about the potential for this information to be passed on to the Chinese government. The app had faced the threat of a ban under the Trump administration, and the Biden administration has also expressed concerns about the social network.
This latest development follows the unveiling of new legislation in the US Senate that could potentially give the president expanded authority to ban TikTok across the country. The Restrict Act would enable the US Commerce Department to classify foreign-linked companies as national security threats.
TikTok has already been banned on government phones in the US, Canada, and the EU. The upcoming congressional hearing featuring TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, is widely anticipated and expected to be a high-stakes showdown.