US President Donald Trump has told reporters that TikTok is going to be banned in the country as soon as today, as tensions rise over connections between the app’s developer ByteDance and the Chinese authorities.
“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told the press pack on Friday, as reported by the BBC and others. An executive order was mentioned as one way of applying the ban.
The implications from the US side is that TikTok can be used to collect huge amounts of personal data on American users – and while this isn’t much different from the practices of Facebook, Google and others, in this case it might potentially be funnelled back to the Chinese government. India has already banned TikTok for similar reasons.
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TikTok itself says it is committed to user privacy and job creation in the US, telling NBC News that US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls over who can access it. ByteDance has denied handing over any data to the Chinese government.
How a ban might work
Trump’s comments came in response to unconfirmed reports that TikTok could be sold to Microsoft to sever its ties with China. It would appear the US President would prefer an outright ban, but right now it’s unclear exactly how that would be enforced.
Blocking access to TikTok at the highest network level – as India has done – or forcing Apple and Google to delist the app would be unprecedented moves for the US. Whatever approach is taken with the ban, if it happens, it’s likely to be difficult to put into place and subject to various legal challenges.
Android users can very easily sideload apps outside of the official app store, though this isn’t an option on iOS. Deploying a mobile VPN could be another way of getting around the ban, at least for the web version of TikTok – it really depends how TikTok is banned as to whether a VPN would be effective.
Despite Trump’s talk of outlawing TikTok in the next 24 hours, there are plenty of hurdles in the way to prevent any action from coming into effect that quickly. No doubt the story will be developing quickly over the weekend, and we’ll keep you posted here.