The US government has warned TikTok that it must sell its Chinese stake or face a potential ban in the country.

ByteDance Accused of National Security Risk

TikTok, a video-sharing app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is allegedly a national security risk due to the data it gathers from millions of users. The Wall Street Journal initially reported the ownership change request, which TikTok later confirmed to BBC News. However, TikTok stated that a forced sale would not affect its data flows or access.

White House Yet to Comment on Situation

The White House has not provided any comment to BBC News on the matter. For years, US officials have expressed concerns about the possibility of the Chinese government accessing data from the popular app.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration wants ByteDance to divest from TikTok in order to create a distinct separation from China. The newspaper reported that the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) unanimously recommended ByteDance’s divestment from TikTok.

A spokesperson for TikTok neither contested the Wall Street Journal’s report nor denied that they had been contacted by CFIUS. However, the spokesperson stated that the reporting was exaggerated and the practical meaning of “divestiture” was unclear.

The spokesperson argued that a change in ownership would not solve the problem if national security was the objective since it wouldn’t impose any new restrictions on data flows or access. They suggested that a transparent, US-based protection of US user data and systems would be the best approach.

Previous Ban Threats and Ongoing Concerns

Former President Donald Trump initially threatened a ban in 2020, and the Biden administration has also expressed concerns about the social network. TikTok collects massive amounts of user data, similar to Instagram and Twitter, including biometric and location data. There is a fear that this information could be shared with the Chinese government.

To address these concerns, TikTok has initiated Project Texas, an effort to move all US-based data to the US.

New Legislation and Upcoming Testimony

Last week, the senate unveiled new legislation, called the Restrict Act, which could expand the president’s authority to ban TikTok nationwide. The Act would allow the US Commerce Department to declare foreign-linked companies as national security risks.

TikTok is currently banned on government phones in the US, Canada, and the EU. The company’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, is scheduled to testify before the US Congress in a highly anticipated hearing next week.