The U.S. government is considering instituting a ban on TikTok and other Chinese smartphone apps over security concerns, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said — fears that are unfounded, according to TikTok.
The Trump administration is “looking at” prohibiting the use of Chinese social-media apps in the U.S., Pompeo said in an interview Monday with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, specifically calling out TikTok.
Americans who use TikTok risk having their “private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo warned in the interview. “With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right, too,” he said, citing the U.S. government’s ban on Chinese telecom equipment vendors ZTE and Huawei. “I don’t want to get out in front of [Donald Trump], but it’s something we’re looking at.”
TikTok, in a statement, reiterated its claim that the company has “never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.” The company is owned by Beijing-based internet giant ByteDance.
“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product and public policy here in the U.S.,” the company said. “We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users.”
Ex-Disney exec Kevin Mayer came aboard as TikTok’s CEO and COO of ByteDance on June 1. In a recent webcast, Mayer acknowledged TikTok’s problematic geopolitical optics: “There are a lot of politics going on,” he said, asserting that “We are not really a Chinese company.”
Meanwhile, last week India banned TikTok along with 58 other apps from Chinese companies, after tensions between those two countries escalated in a border clash.
The White House is within its legal rights to ban specific apps “in order to protect the citizens of the United States and their data,” said Dan Fleyshman, founder of social-media agency Elevator.Studio. If “the intense rumors about parent company ByteDance are verified, in regards to Americans data being compromised, just like India recently banned specific apps, you will see Trump’s administration take a similar action as well.”
Separately, TikTok said it is pulling out of Hong Kong after China passed a controversial security law. On Monday, Facebook, Twitter, Google and other internet companies said they were temporarily halting their cooperation with Hong Kong authorities over user-data requests.