Content, Content, Breach, Channel markets

TikTok Could Face Potential U.S. Ban Unless Owners Divest Stakes

The US Capitol Building at dusk.

TikTok’s ByteDance Chinese owners believe their wildly popular video application could be banned in the U.S. if they don’t divest their interests in the company, Reuters reported.

Under newly introduced legislation, the White House could ban foreign technologies if they present a national security risk.

At issue are concerns over the ownership of TikTok and its ties to the Chinese government, such as users’ personal data and other confidential information could be passed to Beijing. TikTok collects mountains of user data, including device information, location data, browsing history and contacts.

TikTok Chief Executive to Appear Before House Committee

TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew is slated to appear before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce committee on Thursday, March 23 to explain the company's cybersecurity practices and policies and its relationship with the People’s Republic of China.

U.S. government agencies have been ordered to delete the China's TikTok app from all staff devices by the end of this month. Another concern is that threat actors could trick users into clicking on malicious links in phishing or other malware attacks. Given the size of TikTok’s user base, said to be more than one billion monthly active users, the opportunity for hackers to pounce could be too easy to pass up.

Exaggerated Fears?

China has accused U.S. officials of exaggerating national security fears about TikTok to suppress the Chinese company. But it’s not only the U.S. that has raised serious concerns over TikTok. The European Commission has banned TikToc from use on its staff phones and the European Parliament has followed suit.

A number of other nations have either outright banned the app or limited its use in government settings. According to a Reuters compilation:

  • Afghanistan may soon ban TikTok and video game PUBG, a battle royale video game. The Taliban claims those apps are leading Afghan youths "astray."
  • Belgian federal government employees will no longer be allowed to use TikTok on their work phones.
  • Canada banned TikTok on government-issued devices due to security risks.
  • India banned TikTok and dozens of other apps by Chinese developers on all devices.
  • New Zealand imposed a ban on the use of the app on devices with access to the parliamentary network amid cybersecurity concerns.
  • Pakistan banned TikTok at least four times over what the government said was immoral and indecent content on the app.
  • Scotland removed TikTok from Scottish Parliament phones and devices amid security concerns.
  • Taiwan banned TikTok and some other Chinese apps on state-owned devices.
  • The U.K. asked the National Cyber Security Centre to assess the potential vulnerability of government data from social media apps.

A number of U.S. universities have also banned TikTok on school devices and Wi-Fi networks.

D. Howard Kass

D. Howard Kass is a contributing editor to MSSP Alert. He brings a career in journalism and market research to the role. He has served as CRN News Editor, Dataquest Channel Analyst, and West Coast Senior Contributing Editor at Channelnomics. As the CEO of The Viewpoint Group, he led groundbreaking market research.