TikTok could be banned from iPhones in the U.S. if its Chinese owner doesn't sell up

TikTok logo on an iPhone display
(Image credit: Unsplash / Solen Feyissa)

A stunning new report on TikTok has revealed that the app could be banned in the U.S. unless its Chinese owners sell their stake in the company. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (Cfius) demanded ByteDance "recently." The report says the move "represents a major shift in policy on the part of the administration," TiTok has been under immense pressure from politicians, notably Republicans, in the U.S. who say the app is a security risk. The report follows breaking news Thursday that says the UK government is expected to announce a ban on TikTok on its work phones with immediate effect. 

TikTok says a sale won't fix the problems of its perceived security threat, having pledged $1.5 billion to protect U.S. user data and content from the Chinese government. In a statement, the company said "If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access," adding that the best way to address the concerns "is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing."

TikTok stalemate

WSJ reports that negotiations with Cfius over securing TikTok user data "have been going on for more than two years and have been at a stalemate for months." According to the report, U.S. officials are partly concerned about China's national security law "which requires companies to turn over customer data if requested" as part of the reason for their misgivings about the popular video-sharing app. 

The same criticism and commentary have been leveled at Apple regarding the safety and security of user data in China in the past. 

To alleviate concerns, TikTok plans to ringfence its U.S. operations, using the aforementioned cash to store all of its U.S. data in the U.S. and giving Oracle access to its algorithm to help with transparency. 

The upshot seems to be that without a sale of ByteDance's stake in the company, TikTok might not even be around in the U.S. by the time the iPhone 15 is launched later this year.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9