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Ex-White House CIO tells The Reg: TikTok ban may be diplomatic disaster

Interview Congress is mulling legislation that will require TikTok’s Chinese parent ByteDance to cut ties with the video-sharing mega-app, or the social network will be banned in the USA.

The law bill has passed the House and is now before the Senate.

In an interview you can watch below, former White House chief information officer Theresa Payton told The Register the tech industry should start prepping for a ban, given the timelines involved and indications that China will block TikTok’s divestment.

“As soon as the President signs this bill into law, and if it passes as written … there will be 180 days” for ByteDance to offload TikTok, Payton explained. “I don’t know about you, but I can think of very few major transactions that can happen in 180 days.”

“If I were advising some of the largest ISPs, Apple, Google and others … you need to be play-booking the worst scenario of what a shutdown means,” Payton said. “This is unprecedented.” 

Internet connectivity providers could be forced to block traffic to the ByteDance subsidiary, app store owners will likely have to take action, and rival social networks may be required to prevent the sharing of TikTok videos.

Beyond that, Payton warns that China – which already bans many Western social media platforms including Facebook – could decide to take a harder line on US-based firms that do business in the Middle Kingdom.

“Pick an American icon company that builds things in China. They could say ‘you’re no longer allowed to do business here and you need to divest.’ There’s a diplomacy concern here as well,” Payton said. 

Among other things we discussed, Payton said this entire affair would be different if, like other nations, the US had a privacy bill of rights. America doesn’t have any such federal-level law, with the most recent attempt crashing and burning.

“If we had … a privacy bill of rights where the guardrails were set, including international access to data points, this conversation might be a little different,” Payton, CEO of cybersecurity firm Fortalice, told us.

“I would love to see something fast-tracked more around that.” ®