While TikTok's future remains under a cloud in the US, the platform's pushing ahead with plans to expand its international operations, with Bloomberg reporting that current parent company ByteDance will build a $500 million data center in Ireland to house European user info.
As per Bloomberg:
"Promising to create hundreds of jobs, improve “the safeguarding and protection of TikTok user data” and shorten loading times for users in Europe, the new data center is expected to be operational by early 2022. Once it goes online, European user data will be stored at that location."
Aside from the timing, the announcement is interesting for a couple of reasons.
For one, TikTok is also reportedly looking to establish a European HQ in London, though the establishment of such has been slowed due to political debate over whether the British Government should allow the company to make the UK its home base outside of China.
Last month, The Guardian reported that talks on a possible TikTok London HQ had stalled following the UK government’s decision to ban Chinese-owned Huawei from developing Britain’s 5G mobile phone network. More recently, however, TikTok has reiterated its plans to build a base in London, which has sparked debate among British MPs.
The ongoing concerns about TikTok's possible links to the Chinese Government, which have been exacerbated by the recent ban talks in the US, have clearly impacted proceedings - but that could soon change if, as expected, TikTok ends up being sold to US tech giant Microsoft.
Following the US Government's announcement of deadline for TikTok to be sold off - or face a ban in the US - discussion has now switched to what, exactly, the purchasing company would get in any deal for the platform, which includes the full scope of what TikTok is, and what would be sold.
In theory, ByteDance would only need to sell off the US arm of TikTok in order to appease US regulators, but the expectation is that this would also include the platform's presence in affiliated nations, like Australia, New Zealand and Canada. But splitting a company along regional lines would be complex, and today, The Financial Times has reported that Microsoft is actually working to acquire all of TikTok's global operations - excluding China, where TikTok technically doesn't operate (the Chinese version is called 'Douyin' and operates on a separate system).
That would mean that TikTok, in its entirety, would no longer be Chinese owned, negating the concerns of British MPs, and clearing the way for its broader expansion strategy.
If, of course, such a deal ends up going ahead.
As we reported yesterday, another impediment to the TikTok deal could be the Chinese Government, which is reportedly incensed at the actions of US President Donald Trump in essentially holding ByteDance to ransom over the app.
And it's not just TikTok that's likely to be impacted - yesterday, US Secretary of State Mike Pomeo announced his plans for a 'clean network' of apps in the US, which would see all Chinese apps banned in the nation. That, theoretically, would see popular apps like WeChat, Baidu, Clash of Kings, Likee, QQ, and many more blocked in the US.
TikTok may be the highest-profile casualty, because of its prominent presence, but many of these other apps also see significant usage in the US. Such a ban would also impact Chinese migrants, who use apps like these to stay connected to family and friends, and even facilitate payments in US stores.
Will the Chinese Government even allow the TikTok sell-off to go ahead, given the circumstances within which it's come about? Some reports have suggested that ByteDance's ownership are already being labeled as traitors over the potential deal.
Could the Chinese regime step in and block the sale entirely?
It's amazing to consider the global political implications of the process, especially when we're talking about a short-form video app, largely popularized by clips of young people dancing to music clips.
That app could spark a new round of global tensions. As such, there's a lot more at stake than people potentially losing their TikTok accounts.