Trump orders ByteDance to divest from its U.S. TikTok business within 90 days

TikTok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken November 27, 2019.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Friday that will force China’s ByteDance to sell or spin off its U.S. TikTok business within 90 days. 

“There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance … might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States,” Trump said in his order.

The order was seen as good news for TikTok — a wildly popular short form video-sharing app — and its future in the U.S., at least relative to an earlier one from Trump last week. The prior executive order could have forced U.S. based app stores to stop distributing the TikTok app if ByteDance did not reach a deal to divest from it in 45 days.

The new order buys time for ByteDance to sort out a potential deal for TikTok in the states.

Under the latest order, ByteDance is expected to destroy all its copies of TikTok data attached to U.S. users, and inform the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) when it has destroyed all that data.

ByteDance responded to Trump’s latest order with the following statement: “As we’ve said previously, TikTok is loved by 100 million Americans because it is a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection. We’re committed to continuing to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform for many years to come.”

According to a Wall Street Journal report on Tuesday, TikTok was apparently collecting some of its users’ MAC addresses, which are unique, fixed identifiers assigned to mobile phones and other internet-connected devices. MAC addresses can be used to track the physical whereabouts of a person using a connected device, even if they have opted out of all manner of other ad-related trackers in their phone’s settings.

The report prompted U.S. senators to ask the Federal Trade Commission to investigate TikTok’s data collection practices. 

Microsoft confirmed that it has held talks with ByteDance to buy its business in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The company is seen as the leading bidder, and the estimated worth of such a deal falls between $10 billion and $30 billion.

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