Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday night in an interview with Fox News that he is considering banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps over national security concerns. His remarks come after India banned the app and Australia is strongly considering doing the same.
Pompeo said that the U.S. is taking the concerns over Chinese software “very seriously” and that they’ve been working on the matter for a “long time.”
According to Reuters, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Justice Department are looking into allegations that TikTok is illegally using the information of young children, behavior the company had previously agreed to stop doing. In 2019, TikTok agreed to settle a $5.7 million with the FTC over the same allegations the company was in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
A staffer in a Massachusetts tech policy group and another source said they participated in separate conference calls with FTC and Justice Department officials to discuss accusations that TikTok had not followed through with the agreement announced in February 2019.
About 60 percent of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the U.S. are between the ages of 16 to 24, the company said last year.
In May the Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and others asked the FTC look into allegations TikTok failed to delete videos and personal information about users 13 and younger, something the company had previously agreed to.
In a statement Tuesday, a TikTok spokesperson said the company “is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here” in the U.S.
"We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked,” said the spokesperson.
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based internet technology company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. ByteDance is rumored to be worth $140 billion.
When Apple revealed its iOS 14 in late June, the company caught TikTok spying on millions of its users by copying text from a user’s clipboard every few seconds through keystrokes technology.
In March Republican Sen. Josh Hawley (MO) and Sen. Rick Scott (FL) introduced the No TikTok on Government Devices Act, legislation that would forbid federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued work phones.
India said on Monday it was banning TikTok, along with 58 other Chinese apps due to security concerns. This move followed a violent border clash between the two countries in early June.
Australia government stated on Monday that they plan on banning the app due to similar fears that the Chinese government is stealing the data of users.
Pompeo said he doesn't recommend using TikTok unless "you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party."