US TikTok ban still subject of negotiation; app fined over privacy
Although the previous White House incumbent threatened a US TikTok ban and then quietly dropped it, the idea never quite went away. A new report says that fresh meetings have taken place between Bytedance, the Chinese owner of the app, and US government officials.
Things kicked off back in the summer of 2020 when the previous administration said that it was considering the possibility of banning TikTok over unspecified security concerns that data could be used by the Chinese government. Since the app uses very little personal data, the nature of these fears was not explained …
Then-president Trump insisted that Bytedance had to sell the app to an American company, or it would be banned. However, the deadline set for the sale was twice extended, before being quietly allowed to lapse.
Under the Biden administration, concerns focused instead on who controlled the recommendation algorithms. The fear here was that it could be used by the Chinese government for propaganda purposes. The White House subsequently entered into discussions with Bytedance over this.
Several states imposed their own bans, to varying degrees, leading to lawsuits. There has been no consensus on a federal ban, but back in March the Biden administration said it was done negotiating, and expected TikTok to be sold.
US TikTok ban still subject to negotiation
Part of the reason for a lack of consensus is that some US politicians use TikTok, and believe it can help their reelection chances, reports The Washington Post.
The Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy posted to X on Tuesday that he was joining TikTok, saying, “The fact is that many young voters are [using it] & we’re not going to change this country without winning.”
It now seems that negotiations are back on.
There’s been no official indication that the government’s position on calling for divestiture has changed. But teams from ByteDance and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which has oversight authority over the U.S. operations of foreign businesses, met last week at the Treasury Department in Washington to again walk through a proposal ByteDance made more than a year ago to assuage U.S. security concerns about TikTok. The meeting was confirmed by four people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the talks.
In Europe, TikTok fined $379M
In Europe, meantime, TikTok has been found guilty of breaching tough GDPR privacy requirements, specifically over failing to protect the data of children. TechCrunch reports:
It’s been a long time coming but TikTok has finally been found in breach of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in relation to its handling of children’s data. Under the decision issued today by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), the video sharing platform has been reprimanded and fined €345 million (~$379M). It has also been ordered to bring its offending data processing into compliance within three months.
The law requires videos posted by children to be set to a limited audience by default, but TikTok failed to do so.
Settings TikTok had implemented at this time were found to have enabled child users to progress through the sign-up process in such a manner that their accounts were set to public by default. “This also meant that, for example, videos that were posted to child users’ account were public-by-default, comments were enabled publicly by default, the ‘Duet’ and ‘Stitch’ features were enabled by default,” the DPC notes.
TikTok says the issue was fixed three years ago.