The US government is inching closer to a deal to secure TikTok in the US

Insiders reportedly say that negotiators have cleared an early hurdle, although there's a lot left to discuss.
Two smartphones in front of a small plant with TikTok logo on one screen and TikTok homepage on the other
There's still a lot left to haggle over, however. Unsplash

In one of their few areas of political overlap, both the former Trump and current Biden administrations have been concerned about how much access TikTok has to American consumers’ data and information. Unlike domestically based apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, both federal regulators and online watchdog groups repeatedly cite the numerous additional concerns stemming from the fact that one of the country’s most popular social media platforms is own by ByteDance, which is based in China.

After months of negotiations, however, The New York Times reported Monday morning that the Biden administration is closer than it’s ever been to reaching a tentative security agreement regarding future TikTok operations in the US, one that unlike Trump’s past demands, wouldn’t require TikTok’s Chinese tech giant owner, ByteDance, to sell it to a third-party. However, both the Justice and Treasury Departments remain skeptical of the initial deal’s efficacy and security.

[Related: What TikTok’s deal with Oracle could mean for user security]

As it stands, there are three major proposals on the table within the potential agreement. First, TikTok would agree to store American data solely on US-based servers, most likely from Oracle, who has had its own vested interest in the social media app for some time now. Secondly, Oracle would be tasked with monitoring TikTok’s content recommendation algorithms to ensure the Chinese government doesn’t surreptitiously attempt to influence American public sentiment via quirky choreographed dances and pet videos. Finally, the agreement requires the creation of a security expert board reporting directly to the US government in regards to domestic operations.

Both the Justice and Treasury Departments reportedly remain skeptical of the initial deal’s efficacy and security, however, and some lawmakers have already gone on record as stating the potential deal isn’t stringent enough. “Anything short of a complete separation” of TikTok from ByteDance “will likely leave significant national security issues regarding operations, data and algorithms unresolved,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Intelligence Committee’s top Republican, said in a statement provided to The New York Times.

Regardless of possible revisions and capitulations, don’t expect a final deal to be reached between the US and China for at least a few months, if at all. The agreement is still far from certain, but the entire saga seems closer than it’s ever been to reaching a conclusion that could satisfy both sides of the situation.