Pompeo: Let Parents Worry About Kids’ Cell Phone Use; We’ll Worry About Chinese Data Theft

By Patrick Goodenough | July 16, 2020 | 4:27am EDT
TikTok was the second most downloaded app in the world in 2019. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
TikTok was the second most downloaded app in the world in 2019. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday his recent comments about TikTok had prompted requests from moms to go ahead and ban the hugely-popular Chinese video-sharing app.

While cellphone use time was the responsibility of parents, he said, it’s the government’s job to ensure children’s information is not stolen by the Chinese Communist Party.

During an interview with the editor-in-chief of The Hill, Bob Cusack, Pompeo was asked about his recent remarks on possibly banning TikTok, and whether he expects a decision on the matter soon.

Pompeo recalled with a laugh that when he first made the comments, “I got lots of notes from mothers saying, ‘Please, please take it away! Make it go away!’”

“That’s for the parents to decide their kids’ usage on their cell phones,” he said. “It’s our task to make sure that their children’s information doesn’t end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters traveling on Air Force One on Wednesday that a decision on TikTok could come soon.

“There are a number of administration officials who are looking at the national security risk as it relates to TikTok, WeChat and other apps that have the potential for national security exposure, specifically as it relates to the gathering of information on American citizens by a foreign adversary,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s any self-imposed deadline for action, but I think we are looking at weeks, not months.”

TikTok, owned by Beijing-based tech company ByteDance, was the fourth most downloaded app worldwide in 2018, and moved to second place in 2019.

Critics in the U.S. Congress and elsewhere have expressed concern that Beijing’s 2017 Internet law compel companies in China to share data with the CCP if requested.

The Indian government late last month banned TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps, citing concerns about the misuse of technology for “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers outside India.”

Fox News’ Laura Ingraham then asked Pompeo about it on July 7, noting that TikTok has about 30 million users in the U.S. and asking him whether a ban was being considered, given the security concerns.

After commenting on Huawei and ZTE, Pompeo said, “With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too.”

“I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we’re looking at,” he added.

Asked by Ingraham whether he would recommend that people download TikTok, Pompeo replied, “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Speaking at the State Department later that week, Pompeo said he wanted to put the TikTok remarks into a broader context.

“We have been engaged in a constant evaluation about ensuring that we protect the privacy of American citizens and their information as it transits, so this doesn’t relate to any one particular business or company but rather to American national security, and we are striving to get that right,” he said.

“The infrastructure of this next hundred years must be a communications infrastructure that’s based on a Western ideal of private property and protection of private citizens’ information in a transparent way,” Pompeo said. “That is not the model that Chinese Communist Party software and hardware companies are engaged in.”

Asked to respond to Pompeo’s comments, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called the accusations directed to TikTok “groundless slander.”

“The Chinese government always asks Chinese companies to observe laws and regulations when doing business overseas,” he said. “If we follow the logic of the US side, can we say that American social media companies, with a large number of users globally, pose a grave security threat to all other countries in the world?”

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