Microsoft in Talks to Buy TikTok in the US

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Microsoft has revealed it is in preliminary talks to buy TikTok’s operations in several countries outside China, in a deal that would help allay national security concerns about the app which are fomenting in Washington.

Under the proposals, which have been filed with the increasingly influential Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), Microsoft would own and operate TikTok in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“This new structure would build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy and digital safety protections. The operating model for the service would be built to ensure transparency to users as well as appropriate security oversight by governments in these countries,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

“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 country after it is transferred.”

The update claimed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been in contact not only with TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance but also US President Donald Trump, highlighting the politicized nature of the deal.

Hawks in Washington are concerned that the app provides a covert channel for the Chinese government to spy on its global users — suggestions fiercely denied by the company. Others have argued that the US simply doesn’t want a Chinese-owned social media app becoming a global success.

There have also been concerns that the firm has kowtowed to Beijing by banning content on its platform that the Communist Party might find offensive.

The app has already been banned in India and by the US military, ostensibly on security concerns.

The Microsoft news comes as mounting reports suggest Trump was planning to ban the app in the US. It recently hired former Disney exec Kevin Mayer as CEO.

“If Microsoft is the buyer, it is part of a pattern trying to buy cool brands (e.g. it bought Skype and LinkedIn before) to stay fresh,” argued Roslyn Layton, co-founder of ChinaTechThreat.

“The price of TikTok would be peanuts for them. The regulators would be happy that it’s out of Chinese hands. There could be some pushback from ‘big tech’ detractors, but on the other hand, the security concerns are greater.”

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