Tag Archives: tiktok

Microsoft’s Bid for TikTok was Rejected



ByteDance has selected Oracle as TikTok’s technology partner for its U.S. operations, The New York Times reported. This decision comes after President Trump issued an executive order that requires ByteDance to divest from its U.S. TikTok business withing 90 days (from the issuing of the order).

Microsoft released the following statement:

ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft. We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests. To do this, we would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combating disinformation, and we made these principles clear in our August statement. We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas.

Politico reported that the exact value or structure of the deal between Oracle and TikTok was not immediately clear. Will Oracle own part or all of TikTok’s assets? According to Politico, a source familiar with the matter described Oracle as a technology partner to TikTok and did not describe the transaction as a sale.

From this, it appears that ByteDance has potentially fulfilled at least part of President Trump’s executive order. ByteDance could be in the process of divesting from its US business with TikTok, and might able to do it before the deadline of September 20.

Another part of the executive order requires TikTok to destroy all data that was obtained from the application in the United States. If TikTok has not been outright sold to Oracle, I cannot help but wonder which company is going to be held responsible if that data is not destroyed.


Trump Orders ByteDance to Divest From TikTok Within 90 Days



President Trump has issued an executive order requiring ByteDance to divest from its U.S. TikTok business within 90 days, CNBC reported. Part of the executive order requires ByteDance to prove that it has destroyed all data that was obtained or derived from the TikTok application in the United States.

…The transaction resulting in the acquisition by ByteDance of Musical.ly, to the extent that Musical.ly or any of its assets is used in furtherance or support of, or relating to, Musical.ly’s activities in interstate commerce in the United States … is hereby prohibited, and ownership of ByteDance of any interest in Musical.ly in the United States, whether effected directly or indirectly through ByteDance’s subsidaries, affiliates, or Chinese shareholders is also prohibited…

The wording in the executive order might be a little confusing to those who are unaware of how ByteDance, TikTok, and Musical.ly connect. ByteDance bought Musical.ly in 2019.

The FTC learned that Musical.ly (which quickly became TikTok) illegally collected personal information from children. User accounts on Musical.ly were public by default, and it appears there were some problems with adults trying to contact children on the Musical.ly app. According to the FTC, operators of the Musical.ly app were aware that a significance percentage of users were under the age of 13.

TikTok agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle the allegations made by the FTC.

The executive order requires ByteDance to sell or spin off its U.S. TikTok business within 90 days. It might be possible. Microsoft has been in discussions with ByteDance about a potential acquisition of TikTok. A previous executive order required ByteDance to reach a deal within 45 days. If that did not happen, then the order would force U.S. based app stores to stop distributing the TikTok app. The new executive order extends that timeline to 90 days.

I cannot help but wonder what happens if Microsoft acquires TikTok. Do the problems with it (and Musical.ly before it) become Microsoft’s problems to resolve? Will Microsoft be expected to provide proof that the data ByteDance gleaned from U.S. users has been destroyed? Or will ByteDance have to provide that proof itself?


TikTok is Offering Refunds for Ad Campaigns



What happens when a company is the subject of a presidential executive order? For TikTok, it apparently means it is time to start preparing advertisers for a possible ban of its app in the United States, and to offer refunds for ad campaigns that TikTok is unable to run, according to Reuters.

The executive order, signed by President Trump, would ban U.S. transactions with TikTok and WeChat, the Chinese-owned messaging app, starting on September 15, 2020.

Earlier this month, Microsoft stated in a blog post that the company is committed to acquiring TikTok “subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.” From there, Microsoft will pursue discussions with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance. The discussions are to be completed no later than September 20, 2020.

Among other measures, Microsoft would ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States. To the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States, Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the the country after it is transferred.

The Verge reported that the executive branch has the power to levy sanctions against individuals and corporations, like it did with Huawei. The difference between that, and the executive order regarding TikTok, is that these sanctions are supposed to be put in place by the Commerce Department – not the White House.

As such, the situation could lead to legal challenges. TikTok posted a blog in which the company stated, “We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the Administration, then by the US courts.”

This is going to get messy very quickly, especially if Microsoft acquires TikTok from ByteDance before the September 15, 2020, deadline set in the executive order. It could lead to a legal battle between Microsoft and the White House. Personally, I am suspicious that the date on the executive order was intended to persuade Microsoft to cancel discussions with TikTok.


Amazon Tells Workers to Delete TikTok in Email Sent in Error



Amazon apparently sent its workers an email asking them to remove TikTok from their mobile devices. This was first reported by The New York Times, and several news sites have since posted about it as well. Later, Amazon changed its mind and said that the request had been sent in error.

Taylor Lorenz, a reporter for The New York Times Fashion and Style section, posted a tweet with a screenshot of the email that Amazon sent to its employees. The email was titled: “Action required: Mandatory removal of TikTok by 10-Jul”.

Hello,
Due to security risks, the TikTok app is no longer permitted on mobile devices that access Amazon email. If you have TikTok on your device, you must remove it by 10-Jul to retain mobile access to your Amazon email. At this time, using TikTok from your Amazon laptop browser is allowed.

According to The Verge, the email was obtained and independently published by multiple reporters on Twitter. Later, an Amazon spokesperson told The Verge: “This morning’s email to some of our employees was sent in error. There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok.”

To me, this seems a little bit strange. Why would a company as big as Amazon write a very specifically worded email telling its employees that TikTok was no longer permitted on mobile devices that access Amazon email… only to walk that back after the email was posted on Twitter? Did someone at Amazon accidentally send that email earlier than planned? Or was Amazon unhappy that the email became public knowledge?

What we do know is that the U.S. Navy banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices because the app represented a “cybersecurity threat”. U.S. Army cadets were also asked not to use TikTok. Some members of Congress expressed that they think TikTok poses “national security risks”.

Amazon appears to have had enough of a security concern with TikTok to tell its employees to delete it. Later that same day, Amazon seems to have changed its mind about that. One cannot help but wonder what happened behind the scenes.


U.S. Navy Bans TikTok from Government-Issued Mobile Devices



Reuters reported that the United States Navy banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices because the app represented a “cybersecurity threat”.

A bulletin issued by the Navy on Tuesday showed up on a Facebook page serving military members, saying users of government=issued mobile devices who had TikTok and did not remove the app would be blocked from the Navy Marine Corps Intranet.

Reuters reported that the Navy would not provide details on what dangers TikTok presents. Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Uriah Orland said in a statement that the order was part of an effort to “address existing and emerging threats.”

This comes after two senior members of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked U.S. intelligence officials to determine whether TikTok posed “national security risks”. The two Senators sent a letter to Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maquire, questioning TikTok’s data collection practices and whether the app could be used by the Chinese-owned social-networking app to limit what U.S. users could see.

Reuters reported that last month U.S. Army cadets were instructed not to use TikTok, after Senators Schumer and Cotton raised security concerns about the Army using TikTok in their recruiting.

I find this interesting because, at a glance, TikTok appears to be an app designed to encourage creativity. People make short videos that are intended to be humorous. Many people find the videos to be amusing, and they pass them around on social media.

Now, it seems that TikTok could actually be a security threat, and a strong enough one where various branches of the U.S. military are banning it from government-issued mobile devices. There appears to be concern about TikTok’s data collection practices. It is troubling that an app that appears to be lighthearted could potentially be dangerous.


Two Senators Think TikTok Poses National Security Risk



You may have seen some brief, funny, videos from TikTok posted on social media. It functions similarly to how Vine used to. While most of us don’t give much consideration to what TikTok may be doing other than providing a moment of amusement, two U.S. Senators are questioning if TikTok may be dangerous.

The Washington Post reported that two senior members of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Shumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have asked U.S. intelligence officials to determine whether the Chinese-owned social-networking app TikTok poses “national security risks”.

The two senators sent a letter to Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire about TikTok. They questioned TikTok’s data-collection practices and whether the app could be used by the Chinese-owned social-networking app to limit what U.S. users could see. The Senators ask the Intelligence Community to conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the U.S. and brief congress on these findings.

In response, TikTok posted a statement in which they attempt to “set the record straight on some specific issues.” Here are some key points from TikTok’s statement:

We store all TikTok US user data in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore. Our data centers are located entirely outside of China, and none of our data is subject to Chinese law. Further, we have a dedicated technical team focused on adhering to robust cybersecurity policies, and data privacy and security practices.

TikTok states that it does not remove content based on sensitivities related to China. TikTok says it has never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and that they would not do so if asked. Their U.S. moderation team, which is led out of California, review content adherence to U.S. policies. TikTok states: We are not influenced by any foreign government, including the Chinese government.

It is up to individual people whether or not they trust TikTok’s statement. The fact that two U.S. Senators, (one Democratic and one Republican) think something may be up makes me feel very unsure about TikTok.


Musical.ly Fined $5.7 Million for Collecting Personal Information from Children



The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that the operators of the video social networking app Musical.ly (now known as TikTok) have agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle FTC allegations that the company illegally collected personal information form children. This is the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the FTC in a children’s privacy case.

The FTC’s complaint (which filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC), alleged that Musical.ly violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires that websites and online services directed to children obtain parental consent before collecting personal information from children under the age of 13.

User accounts were public by default, which means a child’s profile bio, username, picture and videos could be seen by other users. Changing the setting to private did not make the profile private. Users could still send direct messages to private Musical.ly accounts.The complaint noted that there had been public reports of adults trying to contact users via the Musical.ly app.

The FTC complaint said that operators of the Musical.ly app were aware that a significant percentage of users were younger than 13 and received thousands of complaints from parents that their children under 13 had created Musical.ly accounts.

TikTok posted information on its newsroom about how they will work with the FTC in conjunction with the agreement. TikTok will split users into age-appropriate TikTok environments, in line with FTC guidance for mixed audience apps. The environment for younger users will not permit the sharing of personal information. It also places limits on content and user interactions.

There are two things can be learned from this situation. One is that companies that have apps or websites that collect user’s personal information really need to take steps to ensure that the data from children is kept private. Failing to do so could result in a huge fine.

The other lesson is that parents should not assume that an app will protect their child’s data – or keep their child’s profile private. Take the time to see what the app collects, and how protective their privacy settings are before allowing your child to use it.