Originally posted on Wired by Will Knight
SATURDAY WILL MARK a year since Donald Trump said he would ban the wildly popular and annoyingly addictive short-video app TikTok from millions of US smartphones, citing threats to users’ privacy and security posed by its Chinese ownership.
A week later, Trump signed an executive order directing the app’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, to either sell TikTok to an American business within 45 days or see it forcibly removed from app stores and blocked. The deadline was extended several times, and Oracle and Walmart emerged as the putative saviors for TikTok in a deal that was later shelved. At one point, Trump brazenly suggested any sale should include a cut for the US government itself.
A year on, nothing has changed and everything has changed. ByteDance still owns TikTok, which added 7 million new US users in the first four months of this year. Trump is gone, and the threat from the US government has receded—but the Chinese government now looms over the popular app.
“If I was ByteDance I wouldn’t be breaking out the champagne,” says James Lewis, senior vice president and director of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “TikTok could be standing perfectly still, but the landscape is moving around them—mainly because of Chinese activity.”
China has taken an increasingly hard-line approach to regulating its tech companies and scrutinizing the data they own. After scuppering the IPO of Ant Financial, a spinoff of ecommerce giant Alibaba, last December, the government introduced new cybersecurity rules in April that put domestic tech companies on a tighter leash…
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