TikTok CEO Says Biden Sale Demand Won’t Solve Security Worries: WSJ

  • The Biden administration has demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their shares, or face a US-wide ban.
  • But the app’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, says this wouldn’t actually solve anything.
  • That’s because TikTok is already planning to spend billions safeguarding user data by storing in the US.

The Biden administration’s demand that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their shares won’t solve the government’s security concerns, the app’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, told The Wall Street Journal.

Chew said that’s because TikTok is proposing to spend billions on storing American users’ data in the US by partnering with Oracle. That would also prevent any Chinese influence over which TikToks US users see, per the WSJ.

“I do welcome feedback on what other risk we are talking about that is not addressed by this,” Chew told the newspaper. “So far I haven’t heard anything that cannot actually be solved by this [his plan for US data storage.]”

TikTok has already been banned on government devices in the US, but now officials are threatening a full-scale ban on the short form-video app for all citizens if its Chinese stakeholders don’t divest.

Governments around the world are worried that the fact TikTok is Chinese-owned means the Chinese government could access sensitive data, but a spokesperson for the app says bans “have been based on misplaced fears and seemingly driven by wider geopolitics.”

The company has launched “Project Texas,” as well as “Project Clover” in Europe, to try to convince legislators that it wouldn’t hand over users’ data to the Chinese government. Those efforts have so far been unsuccessful.

On Thursday, the UK joined the European Union, Canada, and the US in banning the app on government devices. That was despite TikTok executives meeting with British policy makers and the cybersecurity intelligence agency to try to allay concerns – as well as building more data centers on the continent. 

Then Grant Shapps, the British energy minister often praised as the government’s “best communicator” per The Guardian, shared a “The Wolf of Wall Street” clip joking about refusing to leave the app. He added that he had only ever used the app on personal devices.

Chew also told the Journal the app isn’t currently profitable “because I spent so much money building these data-sovereignty projects around the world.”

The White House did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment, sent outside US working hours.