The rise of TikTok has been nothing short of meteoric, with the short-form video app becoming a global phenomenon in a matter of years. However, this success has also brought its fair share of challenges, particularly when it comes to concerns over privacy and national security. As a Chinese-owned company, TikTok has faced scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers in various countries, particularly the United States. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how China Inc is tackling the TikTok problem.
TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is one of China’s most valuable tech startups, with a valuation of around $400 billion. The company has been aggressively expanding its presence globally, with TikTok being its most successful international product. However, the app’s popularity has also raised concerns over data privacy and security, particularly in the US, where it has been accused of being a national security threat due to its Chinese ownership.
To address these concerns, ByteDance has taken several steps to distance itself from its Chinese roots. For one, it has hired a large number of non-Chinese executives to lead its international operations, including CEO Kevin Mayer, who was previously a high-ranking executive at Disney. The company has also announced plans to establish a separate headquarters for TikTok in the US, which would be staffed by hundreds of employees.
ByteDance has also sought to address concerns over data privacy and security by increasing transparency and opening up its code to outside scrutiny. In 2019, the company launched a transparency center in the US, where outside experts can review its algorithms and data storage practices. The company has also pledged to store all US user data on servers located in the US, and to separate its US operations from its Chinese operations.
Despite these efforts, however, TikTok continues to face regulatory scrutiny in various countries. In the US, the app is currently facing a potential ban, with the Trump administration arguing that it poses a national security threat due to its Chinese ownership. The ban has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge, but the issue is far from resolved.
In response, ByteDance has been exploring various options to appease regulators and ensure the app’s continued operation. One such option is to sell off TikTok’s US operations to a US-based company, which would remove the app’s Chinese ownership and allay concerns over national security. Microsoft and Oracle have both been reported as potential buyers, although negotiations have been complicated by various factors, including the involvement of the Chinese government.
Another option being considered is to spin off TikTok’s international operations into a separate entity, which would be headquartered outside of China and have its own management team. This would effectively create a global TikTok that is separate from ByteDance’s Chinese operations, which would help to allay concerns over data privacy and security.
TikTok’s success has brought with it a host of challenges, particularly when it comes to concerns over privacy and national security. ByteDance has taken several steps to address these concerns, including hiring non-Chinese executives, increasing transparency, and exploring options to separate TikTok from its Chinese operations. However, the app continues to face regulatory scrutiny, and it remains to be seen how the company will ultimately tackle this problem.