How Frustration Over TikTok Has Mounted in Washington
In an interview, Mr. Beckerman called TikTok’s data collection “all very minor” compared with other social apps. To reduce security concerns, the app has said that it plans to store all its American data in the United States, a process that Mr. Beckerman said would likely happen this year. He did not offer a specific date.
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The White House may be preparing to act soon on broader policy around apps that could expose data to foreign adversaries. Earlier this year, it circulated a draft of an executive order that would give the government more power to intercede in cases where data is at risk of being exposed to an adversary. The Biden administration is also expected to issue guidance soon for a committee that vets transactions involving foreign companies, telling it to be especially sensitive to cases that could expose Americans’ data to other governments. It is also considering ways to review whole classes of potentially risky deals, rather than approaching them on an individual basis.
“The Biden administration is focused on the challenge of certain countries, including China, seeking to leverage digital technologies and Americans’ data in ways that present unacceptable national security risks while advancing authoritarian control and interests,” said Saloni Sharma, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “The administration is also reviewing additional potential actions to address this challenge.”
TikTok has faced security questions for years, especially in 2020 when Mr. Trump issued an executive order to block it from the Apple and Google app stores unless ByteDance sold the app to an American firm. He later announced a deal to sell part of the app to Oracle, the American cloud computing giant, but it never came to pass. Federal courts eventually ruled that Mr. Trump’s order blocking TikTok was illegal, along with another blocking the Chinese-owned app WeChat, and last summer, Mr. Biden rolled both back.
But the government has continued trying to reduce risks associated with TikTok. The app and the committee on foreign investment in the United States, which vets international involvement in deals, have been quietly negotiating a resolution to the government’s concerns, according to people tracking the discussions. TikTok has said its plan is to store all its U.S. user data on Oracle’s servers in the United States, as opposed to TikTok’s servers in Singapore and Virginia.
While a larger team is working on how to cordon off U.S. user data, only around 10 TikTok employees have seen the draft agreement between the company and the government, TikTok said, reflecting the closely held nature of the negotiations.
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