US government launches national security investigation into TikTok
The US government has launched a national security investigation into the popular social network TikTok amid fears over its Chinese ownership.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) will review the terms under which TikTok owner, Beijing-based Bytedance, bought an American app Musical.ly, Reuters reported.
The $1bn (£770m) deal was completed more than two years ago, however politicians have been calling for a national security probe amid growing geopolitical tensions between the US and China.
Because ByteDance did not seek approval from CFIUS when it bought TikTok, the committee has the potential power to force it to sell off the app. In April, Chinese gaming company Kunlun Tech was ordered to sell of Grindr, the gay dating app it had bought.
Britain’s data watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office began looking into TikTok in February over concerns about how it handled young people’s personal data.
This followed a $5.7m fine from the US Federal Trade Commission, the largest penalty in a children’s privacy case. The FTC opened the investigation when the app was still known as Musical.ly. It found that the startup had failed to seek parental consent before collecting names, email addresses and other personal information from users under the age of 13.
In response, the app insists users state their age and limits anyone below 13 from filming and posting videos on it.
The move will be welcomed by Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat who have fallen in popularity in comparison to TikTok, which was the most downloaded on Apple’s App Store in 2018.
Today it has half a billion users, around 40pc of which are outside China and 3.7m in the UK.