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TikTok Says It Doesn’t Provide User Data to Chinese Government After Pompeo Suggests Ban May Be Coming

TikTok is taking off for fashion and footwear brands looking to capitalize on its highly engaged audience and huge growth. But now the U.S. government is considering banning the platform and other Chinese social media apps, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday.

“We are taking this very seriously. We are certainly looking at [banning TikTok],” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News.

When asked whether he would recommend the platform to U.S. consumers, Pompeo said: “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance, TikTok has been on the U.S. government’s radar since last year. Not available in China, TikTok has looked to distance itself from its parent in an appeal to a global audience — including hiring an American, former Disney executive Kevin Mayer, to serve as CEO.

“We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked,” TikTok said in a statement.

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The relationship between Washington and Beijing has been strained amid a tit-for-tat trade war lasting nearly two years — which has seen the world’s two largest economies slap on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of tariffs.

Tensions have become increasingly high in recent weeks after the U.S. alleged that China mishandled the COVID-19 outbreak and contributed to a worldwide economic fallout. President Donald Trump has suggested that a “decoupling” of the two countries was still an option, while White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Monday that Trump was considering several executive orders that target China and manufacturing.  In addition, a coalition of more than 40 trade groups, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, on Monday implored China to buy $200 billion worth of additional U.S. manufactured goods, along with energy and cloud services. Beijing had committed to purchasing those goods under the “phase one” trade agreement brokered earlier this year.

U.S.-China tensions have also mounted due to China’s actions in Hong Kong. Numerous social media platforms that are dark in mainland China have enjoyed access to the semiautonomous territory — but a controversial new Chinese national security law has prompted tech giants such as Facebook and and Google to reconsider. For its part, TikTok announced plans to soon exit the Hong Kong market on Monday. At the same time, India has recently banned the platform — along with scores of other Chinese apps — amid a border dispute between it and China.

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