Government balks at TikTok plans to build British HQ

tiktok nThe net is closing in on the marketing phenomenon that is TikTok, amid claims that the UK Government is planning to impose tough restrictions on how the social media giant handles British consumers’ data, following allegations of links to the Chinese government.

With an estimated 800 million global active users, primarily aged between 13 and 30 – 3.7 million of whom live in the UK – the video sharing app has seen a huge spike in popularity since the coronavirus lockdown, with advertisers desperate for a slice of the action.

In the States, TikTok parent company ByteDance has 25 days to find a purchaser to take over its US operations or face being outlawed, triggering a race to the finish to snap up the US side of the business with Microsoft, Twitter, and Oracle in the running.

However, ByteDance has since filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the executive order. Even so, it is understood that the UK is considering TikTok’s future in Britain after reports that the firm wants to move its global HQ to London due to difficult relations with the US.

Earlier this week, Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith warned that “with a flashy campus in the UK, ByteDance would be free to masquerade as a British equivalent to Facebook or Google, gaining credibility in London”.

But, according to Bloomberg at least, a review led by the prime minister’s chief strategic advisor Eddie Lister has found that the TikTok is not as significant a security threat as Huawei, which was banned from the country’s 5G network earlier this month.

One source said that, although the app might not be banned, it could be asked by the Government to stop moving users’ data abroad.

In July, the South Korean Communications Commission (KCC), the country’s Ofcom equivalent, said it had fined the company 186 million won – about £123,000 – for failing to protect users’ private data.

The fine, which could potentially be the first of many monetary penalties giving the fact that the firm is under investigation in multiple markets, is the maximum permitted under South Korean law, and equivalent to 3% of TikTok’s annual sales in the country.

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