TikTok: Oracle confirms being picked by Bytedance to be app's partner

BBC Technology 14 Sep 2020 05:07

By Leo Kelion
Technology desk editor

Trump and TikTok logo

US tech firm Oracle has confirmed that TikTok's owner has formally proposed it become a "trusted technology partner" to the video-sharing app.

Full details of the tie-up have yet to be disclosed, but the aim is to avoid President Trump's threat to shut down the Chinese-owned service in the US.

Mr Trump has cited national security concerns, suggesting users' data could be accessed by Beijing under current arrangements.

Current owner Bytedance denies this.

It says it has taken "extraordinary measures to protect the privacy and security of TikTok's US user data", which is stored in the States and Singapore.

Oracle is a database specialist without experience of running a social media app targeted at the general public.

Earlier in the day, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the Trump administration had been contacted by the American firm to discuss plans to make TikTok a US-headquartered company. He said the White House intended to review the idea this week.

TikTok has released a statement that does not make direct reference to Oracle.

"This proposal would enable us to continue supporting our community of 100 million people in the US who love TikTok for connection and entertainment, as well as the hundreds of thousands of small business owners and creators who rely upon TikTok to grow their livelihoods and build meaningful careers."

"While I can see the upside for Oracle from a cloud perspective, it is hard not to think how much of this deal rests on politics rather than tech," commented Carolina Milanesi from the Silicon Valley-based research firm Creative Strategies.

The White House is also taking a harsh line against other Chinese tech companies - including Huawei, Tencent and a number of artificial intelligence start-ups - restricting what business they can do with US counterparts without the administration's approval.

The app's US team sued the US government last month in an effort to challenge the moves.
Analysis box by James Clayton, North America technology reporter

But as time wore on, Microsoft became increasingly concerned about what it would be acquiring.

Privately there were concerns too that Microsoft was about to create a rod for its own back by becoming involved with a mass market, youth-focused social network - it already owns LinkedIn, but that caters for a very different audience.

Even so, TikTok's hundreds of millions of users make it an attractive proposition in a sector where size is everything: if all your friends are on a platform, you too are more likely to join.

The big questions now are what exactly is Oracle's involvement, and will the tie-up be approved by the US and Chinese authorities.

TikTok Timeline

March 2012: Bytedance is established in China and launches Neihan Duanzi - an app to help Chinese users share memes

August 2017: An international version of Douyin is launched under the brand TikTok in some parts of the world, but not the US at this time

May 2018: TikTok declared world's most downloaded non-game iOS app over first three months of the year, by market research firm Sensor Tower

February 2019: TikTok fined in US over's handling of under-13s' data

November 2019: The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (Cfius) opens national security investigation into TikTok

June 2020: India bans TikTok among dozens of other Chinese apps

August 2020: Microsoft and Oracle make rival approaches to acquire or otherwise operate TikTok in the US and three other markets. Mr Meyer announces he is leaving the company because the "political environment has sharply changed"

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TikTokBytedanceOracleUSMr Trump
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