On Friday, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that, following executive orders signed by President Donald Trump, the two apps are no longer welcome here unless and until an American company can take over their ownership in a way that satisfies U.S. regulators.
The Trump administration has long accused TikTok of being a security threat. Indeed, as The Washington Post reported in July, the app, popular with teenagers and young people, allows people who use it to post brief videos of themselves, usually singing, dancing, lip-syncing, or simply sharing what’s on their minds. However, the app’s privacy settings allow it to collect, store, and share data about the users that may seem irrelevant to those goals, including users’ location, contacts, age, phone number, ISP, and type of device being used, among other things. Further, it’s owned by a Chinese company, which has agreed to allow the government of that country access to the data.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross effectively accused the app of being a spying tool for China.
“We have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations,” he said.
For now, users who have already downloaded TikTok will be able to use it, although over the coming weeks they can expect the app’s services to gradually decline between now and November 12, after which it will be completely non-functional.
However, there may yet be hope for TikTok users. Trump’s executive orders allow for the app to continue its existence and operation if its owners can divorce it from its Chinese connections. To that end, the owners, Oracle and ByteDance, have been making moves to try to spin the TikTok brand into a U.S.-based company, with an American board of directors and headed by someone with U.S. government security clearance.
However, as Reuters reported, that proposal is getting resistance from Republicans on Capitol Hill. Senator Marco Rubio, for example, is not convinced the deal will keep Chinese interests out of TikTok’s code.
“We remain opposed to any deal that would allow China-based or controlled entities to retain, control or modify the code or algorithms that operate any U.S.-based version of TikTok,” he said.
Rubio is joined by five other Republican lawmakers in opposing the proposed deal.