U.S. wants TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance to divest over security. Is it too late?

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TikTok is once again facing calls to divest itself from its Chinese-based parent company over national security concerns that are prompting more Western government bans of the popular video-sharing app.

But experts say it will take years, years of legal challenges to force ByteDance to sell its most prized assets, and it may be too late for an app that already earns $1 billion worldwide every month. It is used by more than 100,000 people and is an important resource for young people. and advertisers.

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“I don’t think any of this will happen anytime soon,” said author Ayane Kokas, an associate professor of media studies at the University of Virginia. Smuggling Data: How China is Winning the Battle for Digital Sovereignty.

“I think this is an opening salvo to try to increase overall security against apps.”

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The White House did not confirm the demand, but press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the Biden administration “has concerns, as we’ve said many times before, about this particular software platform.”

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Both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that ByteDance could be sharing TikTok user data — such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers — with China’s authoritarian government.

A 2017 Chinese law requires companies to give the government any personal data related to the country’s national security, though the law itself is unclear about what this limit is.

There is no evidence that TikTok has turned over such data, which China’s foreign ministry accused the US of spreading disinformation about data security and trying to suppress the app’s success in response to reports on Thursday. Told while accusing.

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But ByteDance itself has faced increased scrutiny since December, when tThe company said it fired four employees which accessed data from two journalists from BuzzFeed News and The Financial Times while attempting to track down the source of a leaked report about the company.

TikTok in a statement to Granthshala News dismissed the Wall Street Journal report, with a spokesperson saying the divestment would not address wider concerns.

“If protecting national security is the objective, divestment does not solve the problem: a change in ownership will not impose any new restrictions on data flow or access,” said Maureen Shanahan.

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Instead, TikTok is urging US lawmakers to support its “Project Texas” data protection regime that would store US user data locally with “robust third-party monitoring”. The company launched a similar strategy in Europe earlier this month under the name “Project Clover”.

That hasn’t been enough to placate US lawmakers in Congress, who are moving to pass legislation that would give the Biden administration more power to enforce a national ban of TikTok, which the White House says it will supports it.

But implementing the Project Texas strategy will take years, Kokas says — as will CFIUS’s still-ongoing national security review.

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Meanwhile, more countries are moving towards banning TikTok from government-issued mobile devices.

On Thursday, the United Kingdom joined the US, Canada, the European Union and Belgium in ordering the removal of the app from employees’ phones, describing the move as a “precautionary measure”. New Zealand followed suit on Friday.

Provinces and states in Canada and the US – but not all – have also imposed restrictions within their governments.

In Canada, TikTok is currently the subject of a joint investigation by the federal privacy commissioner and privacy watchdogs in Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, which focuses on its data collection practices.

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A spokesman for the office of Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne would not confirm whether TikTok is currently the subject of a national security review similar to CFIUS in Canada.

“The establishment of new businesses in Canada by non-Canadians is subject to review under the Investment Canada Act, which includes companies such as ByteDance (TikTok),” Laurie Bouchard told Granthshala News in an email.

“Due to the confidentiality provisions of the ICA, we cannot comment on reviews.”

TikTok currently has offices in Toronto and Vancouver, one of more than 200 ByteDance offices from its Granthshala headquarters in Beijing.

Randolph Maneck, a fellow at the Canadian Granthshala Affairs Institute who once led BlackBerry’s business expansion in Asia, says Canada and other Western countries are grappling with how to walk the fine line between individual liberty and national security. How to run

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“We always have this dilemma in the West, don’t we?” They said. “We believe in free speech and free competition in the marketplace, and yet we do not want our data to be used for nefarious purposes.”

He said any further action by Canada on TikTok would reflect the response of Chinese telecoms firms Huawei and ZTE, which have been banned from Canada’s telecommunications networks and government networks, but whose devices are still allowed for personal sale and use. Is allowed.

“I doubt we’ll end up…

U.S. wants TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance to divest over security. Is it too late?

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