By CATHY BUSSEWITZ
AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Microsoft confirmed on Aug. 2 it is in talks with Chinese company ByteDance to acquire the U.S. arm of its popular video app TikTok and has discussed with President Donald Trump his concerns about security and censorship surrounding such an acquisition.
In a statement, Microsoft said Microsoft and ByteDance have provided notice of their intent to explore a deal resulting in Microsoft owning and operating the TikTok service in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The company said it expects those talks to conclude by Sept. 15.
Trump said on July 31 that he would soon ban TikTok in the United States. Trump and CEO Satya Nadella have spoken, the company said, and Microsoft was prepared to continue exploring the purchase of TikTok’s U.S. operations after their conversation.
“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns.
It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,’’ the Microsoft statement said.
The White House did not immediately comment on the Microsoft statement.
Previously, there were reports that Microsoft was in advanced talks to buy the U.S. operations of TikTok, which has been a source of national security and censorship concerns for the Trump administration. On Aug. 1, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again raised the administration’s warnings about social media platform.
“These Chinese software companies doing business in the United States, whether it’s TikTok or WeChat—there are countless more … are feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party, their national security apparatus,’’ Pompeo said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.’’
“Could be their facial recognition patterns. It could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends, who they’re connected to. Those—those are the issues that President Trump has made clear we’re going to take care of,“ Pompeo said.
In its statement, Microsoft said it may invite other American investors to participate on a minority basis in the purchase of TikTok. Financial terms were undisclosed.
TikTok’s U.S. user data is stored in the U.S., with strict controls on employee access, and its biggest investors come from the U.S., the company said.
“We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform,’’ a TikTok spokesperson said.
TikTok’s catchy videos and ease of use has made it popular, and it says it has tens of millions of users in the U.S. and hundreds of millions globally. But TikTok’s Chinese ownership has raised concern about the potential for sharing user data with Chinese officials as well as censorship of videos critical of the Chinese government. TikTok says it does not censor videos and it would not give the Chinese government access to U.S. user data.
The debate over TikTok parallels a broader U.S. security crackdown on Chinese companies, including telecom providers Huawei and ZTE. The Trump administration has ordered that the U.S. stop buying equipment from those providers to be used in U.S. networks. Trump has also tried to steer allies away from Huawei over concerns that the Chinese government has access to its data, which Huawei denies.