As TikTok struggles to stay alive continue, the parent company ByteDance is considering taking some drastic measures to ameliorate the hits emanating from the paranoia that TikTok poses a security threat.
Senior executives of the company are having talks on how to create a new management board for TikTok, or establish headquarters for the app outside China, to distance it from troubles.
“As we consider the best path forward, ByteDance is evaluating changes to the corporate structure of its TikTok business. We remain fully committed to protecting our users’ privacy and security as we build a platform that inspires creativity and brings joy for hundreds of millions of people around the world,” TikTok told ET in a statement
Last week, India listed TikTok among 59 apps banned in the country in response to the escalated border conflict between India and China. Following the concern raised by the United States, India warily implemented a ban on the video app citing national security.
On Monday the US Secretary of States, Mike Pompeo said the United States is looking at banning some apps including TikTok. Pompeo said the US government is seriously considering the move to ban TikTok among other Chinese apps.
“With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too,” Pompeo said to Fox News Laura Ingraham. “I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we’re looking at.”
Monday’s statement followed a series of other attempts by the United States government to kick TiKTok out of the country. The fear has been that the Chinese Communist Party would have access to users’ data giving the censorship laws of the Chinese government.
TikTok’s many attempts to distance itself from the perceived ties with China have done nothing to change the situation. In response to Pompeo’s statement on Monday, the app’s spokesperson said the company’s priority is to promote a safe experience for users and not provide data for the Chinese government.
“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US. 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.”
The Chinese app has repeatedly stated that it operates separately from the Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, and none of its data is subject to Chinese law because its data center is in the United States with a backup in Singapore.
But about two weeks ago, TikTok was caught spying on users by Apple’s iOS 14’s beta version, which sends notifications to users whenever an app is found accessing users data. Though TikTok said it was triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behavior, and promised to protect users’ privacy and remain transparent about how the app works, the incident seems to have confirmed the fears of many.
On Friday, Amazon banned and unbanned the TikTok sharing app from employee mobile devices, though it was said to be a mistake and was handled when the representatives of the two companies met. However, earlier this week, Wells Fargo sent a letter to its employees directing them to remove TikTok from their devices.
“Due to concerns about TikTok’s privacy and security controls and practices, and because corporate-owned devices should be used for company business only, we have directed those employees to remove the app from their devices,” a statement from Wells Fago said.
These actions by companies have followed several governments’ move to ban TikTok. On Friday, the Republican National Committee sent an email to its members asking them not to download TikTok. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) also reiterated its guidance to members from December, asking them not download the app.
In March, two Republican senators introduced a bill aimed at banning federal workers from using TikTok on government-issued phones. Last year, the United States Navy banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices citing cybersecurity threats.
Last November, the US government launched a national security review of TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology’s $1 billion acquisition of social media app Musical.ly.
All these have been based on TikTok’s relationship with China. And for an app whose only crime is having a Chinese origin, it’s time to change the status quo.
ByteDance is taking steps to shift its center of power from china, as a way to address the concerns over its Chinese ownership, and to put an end to many of its security and privacy questions.