Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State has criticised TikTok and a host of Chinese apps for “feeding data” communist party officials.
Speaking to reporters, Mike Pompeo said that President Donald Trump will take action on Chinese apps “in the coming days,” citing the security concerns that the US believes are a risk to national security.
Mr Pompeo directly challenged the makers of TikTok, a company called ByteDance for being guilty of “feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party.”
Just two days ago, President Trump told reporters that he would ban TikTok with an executive order in the coming days. That order, however, is yet to be signed by the president.
Trump told reporters riding on Air Force One that “as far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States.”
Mr Pompeo told Fox News that the Trump administration will soon take steps “with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party,” just days after warning the US was considering a nation-wide ban on the popular social networking app.
“These Chinese software companies doing business in the United States, whether it’s TikTok or WeChat – there are countless more… are feeding data to the Chinese Communist Party, [and] their national security apparatus.”
The US government is wary of the potential for espionage and surveillance of American citizens using the popular video social networking platform, suggesting that TikTok, like “countless” other Chinese-made applications are guilty of sharing information with foreign governments.
Secretary Pompeo warned that this information could include phone numbers, addresses, facial recognition patterns and other personally identifiable information.
“[It] could be their facial recognition patterns. It could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends, who they’re connected to. Those – those are the issues that President Trump has made clear we’re going to take care of,” Pompeo added.
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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said that TikTok “risks sending back information on 100 million Americans,” and stated that “we all agree there has to be a change… everyone agrees that it can’t exist as it does.”
The remarks coincided with an announcement from the Australian Federal Government that it will launch two investigations into the app to determine whether it presents a similar risk to Australia’s national security.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously said that “if we consider there is a need to take further action than we are taking no, then I can tell you we won’t be shy about it.”
In a statement, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance has tried to distance its relationship with Beijing, and reiterated that it stores its data in the US and Singapore, where it cannot be accessed by the Chinese Communist Party.
“TikTok does not share information of our users in Australia with any foreign government, including the Chinese government, and would not do so if asked,” it said. “We have no interest in being a political football when it comes to global geopolitical issues,” the statement added.
“We welcome ongoing discussions with government audiences as we work to remain a safe, fun and creative platform for people to express themselves,” the company concluded.
TikTok is said to have more than 800 million active monthly users, with the majority of these users in the United States, and previously India before its government implemented a ban on the platform, citing security concerns.