TikTok Security-Deal Talks Blame Biden

WASHINGTON — The possibility of Republicans winning majorities in either or both houses of Congress next month puts pressure on the Biden administration to strike a long-awaited national security deal with the video app Chinese TikTok.

Administration officials have been negotiating with TikTok executives for more than a year over measures to prevent information collected by TikTok about millions of U.S. users from being shared with the Chinese government.

The talks have taken on added urgency, according to people familiar with the situation, as Republicans pledge to lobby for audiences, potentially including TikTok executives, on whether they win a majority in the House. or in the Senate in the November 8 midterm elections.

These people say a deal with TikTok owner ByteDance Ltd. aimed at erecting a wall between US and Chinese operations is near, but beware that obstacles remain, including operational challenges and possible opposition from the Chinese communist government.

President Biden has promised a plan to deal with TikTok’s security risk.


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Republicans say they will challenge any deal that does not impose strict safeguards.

“Allowing this company to continue to collect data on US users while maintaining its relationship with ByteDance… jeopardizes American privacy and US national security and would be an unacceptable concession on the part of the Biden administration,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.) said. , said in a statement. She would be in the running to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee if Republicans capture the House,

Former President Donald Trump has sought to ban TikTok unless it becomes American-owned. President Biden rescinded those orders after taking office, saying they were unenforceable following successful legal challenges.

Mr Biden promised a comprehensive plan to address the security risk of TikTok and other apps based in adversarial countries, saying they “can access and capture vast swathes of user information”, including personal data and proprietary business information, which could be shared with hostile governments. He has yet to deliver on that pledge, drawing criticism from Chinese hawks.

While the security risk posed by TikTok is debatable, the White House’s response “hasn’t been on a fast track,” said James Lewis, who directs the strategic technologies program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, DC think tank. .

“If they wanted to make life difficult for ByteDance, they could have done it months ago,” Lewis said.

A spokeswoman for the National Security Council said “the Biden administration has made it clear that we support a robust foreign investment review process to identify and address certain investments that pose national security risks,” but said said the administration would not discuss specific cases.

“They’ve spent more than a year slowing down their promised review of TikTok,” said a spokesman for Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who is set to become Senate Commerce Committee chairman if the Republicans took over the Senate. .

A deal between the Biden administration and TikTok owner ByteDance is close, according to people familiar with the matter.


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Mr Biden himself made an appearance in a TikTok video with pop stars Jonas Brothers to promote the Covid-19 vaccination. The shorthand video app is used by more than a third of the US population over the age of 12 and has over a billion users worldwide.

TikTok said it had not shared user data with the Chinese government and would not if asked. The company said it now routes US user data through Oracle Corp.

servers, and is working with US officials on additional safeguards.

“We will not comment on the details of confidential discussions with the US government, but we are confident that we are on track to fully satisfy all reasonable national security concerns of the United States,” the TikTok spokeswoman said. , Brooke Oberwetter.

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The US side of the negotiations is led by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, a secret government committee that reviews trade deals for security reasons. The talks aim to insulate the US operation from Chinese government influence, without completely severing TikTok’s Chinese ties, according to people familiar with the talks.

It would require a complicated series of internal company and operational adjustments, people familiar with the company’s operations said. For example, many employees rotate between assignments at TikTok and parent company ByteDance, and some still report to ByteDance managers, they said.

The deal also provides for an oversight board, people familiar with it said, which could include U.S. government appointees with national security experience, such as retired U.S. military and intelligence officials.

The two parties have agreed that TikTok’s data on US users will be stored on Oracle servers in the US, the sources said. TikTok said it plans to remove US users’ private data from its own data centers in Virginia and Singapore as it pivots to fully store data with Oracle cloud infrastructure.

He also said that access to US data by anyone outside of a newly created division that governs US data security would be limited and subject to its protocols, monitored and overseen by Oracle.

Singapore-based TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew recently traveled to Washington, DC, with a small group of government policy and legal officials and spent days meeting with officials and lawmakers for the agreement, people familiar with the matter said.

Several people familiar have said the administration hopes to strike a deal early next year or even sooner, but once a deal is struck, a potential wild card is the Chinese government’s response.

TikTok executives haven’t discussed potential terms with Beijing officials, people familiar with this said, partly because they don’t want to present any draft deal that’s still in the works, and partly because they don’t want to present a potential controversial deal until the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China later this month, where President Xi Jinping plans to extend his term in power.

Write to John D. McKinnon at [email protected], Alex Leary at [email protected] and Raffaele Huang at [email protected]

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