Call for TikTok security check before HQ decision

Neil O’Brien – co founder of the China Research Group of Tory MPs – said the intelligence services should publish a report into the matter.

President Trump is threatening to ban TikTok in the US and this has forced the app to ditch plans to establish its headquarters there.

It was expected that TikTok would pick California or New York for its headquarters as they already have offices there, after they appointed an American ex-Disney executive as its chief executive in May.

However, the US president has since given it an ultimatum to sell its local business to an American firm.

Microsoft have confirmed they are in talks to buy TikTok’s service in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – all the members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, expect the UK.

The app’s Chinese parent company Bytedance has confirmed this had forced a rethink.

The Sun newspaper reported on the weekend that the UK government had already approved TikTok setting up its HQ in London, and an announcement would be made this week.

However, a source told the BBC that Bytedance were yet to make a final decision, although London was on a short list of possibilities.

While the government have not commented on a security review, as a matter of course GCHQ looks into any cyber-issue flagged as a national security threat by the US.

Two points are believed to be of particular concern. Firstly, whether Chinese spies could get access to the geo-location data – including GPS coordinates and internet addresses – logged by the app.

Secondly, the degree to which the app could be subverted to push certain political content at users.

While TikTok say it would not send international users’ data back to China, there is concern it would be compelled to do so if Beijing invoked its National Intelligence Law.

It obligates Chinese citizens to ‘support, assist and cooperate’ with the country’s intelligence services and to keep such activity secret.

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