Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. is considering a ban on TikTok and other Chinese apps.
The move comes after India banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese-owned apps from its country. Apple and Google scrambled to remove the offending apps from their digital Indian storefronts. When asked whether the U.S. is exploring a similar ban, Pompeo said this:
“We’re certainly looking at it. With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cellphones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right. I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we’re looking at.”
When asked if Americans should download TikTok on their phones, Pompeo responded the same as the hacktivist group, Anonymous. “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” he told his interviewer. Anonymous recently issued the same warning, telling Americans to remove the “Chinese spyware” from their phones.
A recent update to iOS 14 exposed TikTok acting as a keylogger, accessing clipboard information every few keystrokes. A TikTok spokesperson says the behavior was intended to prevent spam, but there are many more effective ways to block spammers than clipboard access.
TikTok parent company ByteDance is making moves to distance itself from the company to avoid a US-based TikTok ban.
The platform recently hired Kevin Mayer, a former Disney+ exec, as the company’s CEO. TikTok has also established offices in Los Angeles and Times Square in NYC. After a new sweeping security law for Hong Kong passed, TikTok is suspending operations in the region. The move comes as other social media companies are doing the same.
“In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” a spokesman said. TikTok maintains that it would not comply with any requests made by the Chinese government to censor content or for access to TikTok’s user data. But last year, Digital Music News reported on several instances of TikTok censoring pro-Hong Kong independence content.
According to a report from last August, TikTok has around 150,000 users in Hong Kong.
But that’s a drop in the bucket of the more than two billion downloads the app has racked up over two years.
TikTok is supposed to be the world’s version of an app that can’t be accessed by mainland China. ByteDance operates a ‘TikTok clone’ for its Chinese audience called Douyin. Right now, it’s unclear if Douyin will be introduced to the Hong Kong market.