In an informal announcement to reporters, President Trump said he plans to ban the popular video sharing application TikTok.
Aboard Air Force One returning to Washington after a quick trip to Florida, President Trump announced to reporters, “As far as TikTok is concerned we’re banning them from the United States,” according to NBC.
President Trump said he has the authority to sign an executive order and declare the company banned if necessary on Saturday, Aug. 1.
On Friday morning from the White House, before his trip to Florida, President Trump had already answered a question from reporters about TikTok, “We’re looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok. We may be doing some other things. There are a couple of options. But a lot of things are happening, so we’ll see what happens. But we are looking at a lot alternatives with respect to TikTok.”
TikTok is being strongly questioned from various quarters, mainly because it is owned by a company of Chinese origin that includes members of the Chinese Communist Party, and because Chinese law requires it to share user data with the Party, it puts the IT security of both the government and U.S. companies and citizens at constant risk.
The accusations point to the application, taking advantage of its ambiguous privacy policies, taking content from its users such as video drafts, contact lists, email addresses, and location data, which could be used to identify, profile, and track users in the United States.
On Android, it would be fairly easy for users to perform a side load. Google has the ability to remove potentially harmful applications, although this is usually reserved for malware.
If a ban is confirmed, this will put even more pressure on TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell its shares in the application in the United States.
According to CNBC, Microsoft, the largest provider of business software, has been in talks for some time with ByteDance, seeking an agreement to the purchase of the mobile application.
The acquisition of TikTok by Microsoft could make it more focused on consumer technology. In 2014, the company paid $2.5 billion to buy the game developer Mojang, whose “Minecraft” title is popular with younger users who also constitute TikTok’s primary audience in the United States.
According to CNBC, ByteDance investors have valued the application at $50 billion. But so far neither Microsoft nor TikTok have officially announced any deals or negotiations to buy/sell the application.
TikTok has repeatedly claimed to be an independent company, free from the influence of the Chinese Communist Party or claims of rights over data from domestic companies or individual users. But on Wednesday, Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said China sees TikTok as a national company. Interestingly, the application is not available in mainland China. These contradictions surely deepen the Trump administration’s distrust of the challenged application.