The US is considering banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the White House is ‘looking at’ the possibility.

Pompeo said that the US has already acted to protect its telecoms infrastructure, and wanted to make the right decision when it came to smartphones …

CNBC reports.

Washington has been on a campaign against Chinese technology firms. Huawei in particular has been in the crosshairs. The U.S. maintains that Huawei equipment could be used for espionage by Beijing, and that user data could be compromised. Huawei has repeatedly denied those allegations.

But TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has also been on the radar since last year. Washington has been concerned that the platform censors content and that its data could be accessed by Beijing […]

When asked in a Fox News interview if the U.S. should be looking at banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps, Pompeo said: “We are taking this very seriously. We are certainly looking at it.”

“We have worked on this very issue for a long time,” he said. “Whether it was the problems of having Huawei technology in your infrastructure we’ve gone all over the world and we’re making real progress getting that out. We declared ZTE a danger to American national security,” Pompeo added, citing the two Chinese teleommunications networking companies.

“With respect to Chinese apps on peoples’ cellphones, the United States will get this one right too.”

TikTok insists that US user data is stored in the United States, with a backup in Singapore, and that it has never provided data to the Chinese government. However, wording can be critical in these cases, and it’s entirely possible that China can access the data without TikTok ‘providing’ it. The company also provided a somewhat unconvincing explanation for the revelation that it was reading user clipboard content.

Pompeo was blunt in his comments.

When asked by Fox News if Americans should download the social media app, Pompeo said: “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

TikTok has, however, gained some credibility with its decision to pull out of Hong Kong following the imposition of draconian new laws there.

TikTok and other large Chinese developers have already seen their apps banned in India in apparent retaliation for a border battle, with both Apple and Google responding by removing the apps.

In the US, TikTok is almost as popular as YouTube among kids, so an American ban would be a big blow to the company.

Image: Angela Lang/CNET

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Ben Lovejoy

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