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Twitter, Microsoft Explore TikTok Acquisition? Negotiation Details and Daily Updates

TikTok’s ownership status and ability to operate in the United States remain closely watched topics. Among the latest developments:

Microsoft expects to complete the discussions with TikTok parent ByteDance no later than September 15, 2020. At the same time, Microsoft will be in close contact with President Trump’s administration. Trump has threatened to bar TikTok in the United States.

TikTok, the popular video sharing social media app owned by China’s ByteDance, is seeking a potential strategic U.S. exit amid potential bans by some companies and governments worldwide.

The reason: Some government officials and business leaders worry the Chinese government is using TikTok to collect data on Americans and other users worldwide, though there’s no evidence of such government interference.

TikTok has firmly and repeatedly dismissed the concerns about potential data sharing with the Chinese government — saying the company would never share information with China’s government.

Still, some third-party concerns about the mobile app remain. Here’s a regularly updated list tracking confirmed TikTok bans and potential bans, along with security- and privacy-related discussions about the mobile app.

Channel partners, MSPs and IT consulting firms that support customers in heavily regulated industries — particularly health care, financial services and governments — should closely track policies about the use of TikTok and other data-collecting applications.

Note: Blog originally published July 11, 2020. Updated regularly thereafter.

Amazon: The ecommerce and cloud services giant triggered confusion on July 10, 2020. An email told Amazon employees to stop using TikTok, but Amazon later back-tracked from the email and said the communication was sent in error. Source: USA Today and The Associated Press, July 10, 2020.

Australia: Multiple updates…

  • TikTok has written to Australian politicians to reassure them about the safety of user data and its independence, as concerns about the app’s Chinese ties grow, The Wall Street Journal reports. In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a July 6 radio interview urged the public to be mindful of the type of apps they sign up for and conscious of the data they are sharing on social-media apps including TikTok and Chinese messaging platform WeChat. Other Australian officials have called TikTok a possible national-security threat, the report said. Source: The Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2020.
  • Australia has found no evidence showing it should restrict the popular short-video app TikTok, the country’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. Source: Reuters, August 4, 2020.

China: The country’s leaders won’t accept the U.S.’s “theft” of TikTok and may retaliate, state media said, raising the threat of Beijing’s opposition to Microsoft’s envisioned purchase of the social media app’s American operations. Source: Bloomberg, August 4, 2020.

India: Multiple updates…

  • The Indian government has banned TikTok and other well-known Chinese apps, including messaging platform WeChat and mobile browser UC Browser, saying they pose a “threat to sovereignty and integrity.” Source: CNN, July 6, 2020.
  • India’s government has petitioned a state court to stop any of the Chinese companies whose 59 apps it recently banned — including TikTok — from obtaining an injunction to block the order, according to two sources and the legal filing. Source: Reuters, July 11, 2020.

International Association of IT Asset Managers: IAITAM representatives warned that allowing employees to use TikTok on any devices (including personal cell phones and tablets in a work-from-home context) with direct access to corporate data is “not consistent with maintaining data integrity.” IAITAM is a professional association for individuals and organizations involved in any aspect of IT Asset Management, Software Asset Management (SAM), Hardware Asset Management, Mobile Asset Management, IT Asset Disposition and the lifecycle processes supporting IT Asset Management.

Japan: Lawmakers from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party have decided to push for steps to restrict the use of Chinese-owned video app TikTok, concerned that user data may end up in the hands of the Chinese government. Source: Reuters and NHK, July 29, 2020.

Microsoft: Multiple updates…

  • Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J. Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States. Source: Microsoft, August 2, 2020.

  • Microsoft plans to complete the discussions no later than September 15, 2020. During this process, Microsoft looks forward to continuing dialogue with the United States Government, including with the President, the software company said. Source: Microsoft, August 2, 2020.

  • Microsoft may want to acquire all of TikTok’s global business. Source: Financial Times, August 6, 2020.

Pakistan: The country’s telecommunications regulator issued a “final warning” to short-form video app TikTok over “immoral” content posted on the platform, while live streaming app Bigo Live was blocked in the country for the same reason. Source: Reuters, July 21, 2020.

TikTok: Multiple updates…

  • The company has dismissed concerns about potential data sharing with the Chinese government. TikTok notes that the mobile app company is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy in the United States. The company has never provided user data to the Chinese government, and wouldn’t do so if asked, according to a TikTok spokesperson. Source: CNN, July 7, 2020.
  • White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said he expects TikTok to separate from its Chinese owner and operate as an American company amid growing U.S. concerns about the security of the data handled by the short video app. Source: Reuters, July 16, 2020.
  • TikTok has been in discussions with the UK government over the past few months to locate its headquarters in London, a source familiar with the matter said, as part of a strategy to distance itself from its Chinese ownership. Source: Reuters, July 18, 2020.
  • TikTok announced plans to add 10,000 U.S. jobs, even as concern rises in the federal government and private corporations that the Chinese app may be used to spy on U.S. users. Source: Forbes, July 21, 2020.
  • A small group of ByteDance’s U.S. investors is discussing with the company’s top management the possibility of joining forces to buy a majority stake in TikTok. Source: The Information, July 21, 2020.
  • Some investors of TikTok’s parent company ByteDance seeking to take over the social media app are valuing it at about $50 billion, significantly more than peers such as Snap Inc. Source: CNBC, July 29, 2020.
  • Chinese tech giant ByteDance is considering listing its domestic business in Hong Kong or Shanghai, against a backdrop of rising Sino-U.S. tensions over its hit non-China video app TikTok. Source: Reuters, July 31, 2020.
  • TikTok is set to sue the Trump administration over the executive order banning the fast-growing social network from the U.S. Source: NPR, August 8, 2020.

United States Federal Government: Multiple updates…

  • The U.S. Navy banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices, saying the popular short video app represented a cybersecurity threat. Source: The Guardian, December 21, 2019.
  • The Trump administration is looking at banning TikTok and other social media applications over security concerns, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Source: CNN, July 7, 2020.
  • The Democratic and Republican national committees warned their staffs about using  TikTok. Source: CNN, July 11, 2020.
  • The United States could ban TickTok within weeks, not months. Source: PublicPool, July 15, 2020.
  • U.S. federal employees would be barred from using TikTok on government-issued devices under a bill that passed a U.S. Senate Committee, as lawmakers feared the security of users’ personal data. Source: Reuters, July 22, 2020.
  • Joe Biden’s presidential campaign told staff to remove TikTok from their work and personal devices due to security concerns. Source: CNN, July 28, 2020.
  • U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said TikTok was under a national security review and that his agency would make a recommendation to the president about the popular Chinese-owned video-sharing app this week. Source: Reuters, July 29, 2020.

Wells Fargo: The bank and financial services giant has asked employees to remove TikTok from their corporate-owned phones due to concerns about the security of the social-video app. Source: Bloomberg, July 10, 2020.

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