Talk about bad timing.
A provisional finding by the Information Commission Office in the UK seems poised to slap a £27 million fine on TikTok for failing to meet Britain’s heightened online protections for minors. At the same time, the Biden administration is still conducting furious internal debate on the terms of a preliminary agreement with TikTok on how it stores the data of Americans.
A social media platform that has spread like wildfire, TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that must operate under a 2017 law requiring it to make all data available to Chinese intelligence. Given that TikTok has 80 million active users in the United States, the Biden administration understandably sees a massive security gap in allowing the Chinese Communist Party to follow one-fourth of the U.S. population.
This is not a speculative worry: PPSA reported in June that internal documents from TikTok made it clear that the Chinese Community Party could access its data.
The New York Times today reports that the outline of the provisional agreement with the administration would require TikTok to store its American data in the United States, most likely with Oracle. Oracle would monitor the service for algorithms that the Chinese government could use to steer Americans to its propaganda. And the deal would require TikTok to create a board of security experts answerable to the U.S. government.
Former President Trump had failed in his effort to force ByteDance to sell TikTok to a U.S. company. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that without such a divestiture, the relationship with Beijing will “likely leave significant national security issues regarding operations, data and algorithms unresolved.”