Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton warned on Monday that on the surface TikTok “seems harmless” as it appears to be “a fun video-sharing app,” but really it is “a Trojan horse on your phone,” stealing all your data.
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Cotton made the comments on “Fox & Friends” on Monday as Microsoft is considering a buyout of the social media app, while officials from the big tech company and well as executives representing TikTok have been in discussions with the White House to prevent the Trump administration from issuing a complete ban of the app, FOX Business has learned.
The embattled social media platform confirmed it is engaging in "preliminary discussions" to sell the app's U.S. business over the Trump administration’s national security concerns, TikTok parent company ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming wrote in an internal memo.
President Trump is expected to make an announcement as early as Monday about how a TikTok-Microsoft deal could proceed. Microsoft confirmed Sunday that it was in talks over a potential TikTok purchase.
Regarding the potential deal, Cotton stressed that “there can be no ties whatsoever between a new U.S.-based TikTok” and China.
"Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President's concerns," the company said in a statement. "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."
“Last fall I asked the administration, along with [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer of all people, to conduct a review of TikTok and the threat it may pose to Americans,” Cotton said on Monday.
“On the front of TikTok, just the app on one’s phone, it seems to just be a fun video-sharing app, [it] seems harmless,” he continued. “But the back-end, TikTok really is a Trojan horse on your phone.”
He explained that TikTok “vacuums up all the data, the contacts, the emails, the text messages, the photos, the location data, your facial recognition software, even the keystrokes on your phone, it sends that back to Chinese servers, which are always susceptible to access by the Chinese Communist Party.”
“That is a real risk for America’s families, America’s kids,” Cotton said. “In some ways, we won’t even know because they’ll have that data for decades ahead. That’s why I’m glad the Trump administration is drawing a firm line in saying that TikTok cannot continue to operate in the United States if it continues to have any ties to China whatsoever.”
On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supported President Trump's proposed ban of TikTok, explaining to Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" how use of the app exposes Americans to having their personal information sent straight to the Chinese government.
On Monday, host Ainsley Earhardt asked Cotton, “If the Chinese are being able to get so much information on Americans why would they be interested in selling third company?”
“I think that ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, recognizes that Donald Trump is serious about protecting Americans, especially protecting the privacy of our kids and they don’t want to see one of their largest markets simply cut off and therefore they’re willing to cut losses and try to get as much money as they can,” Cotton said in response.
Cotton acknowledged that he doesn’t know the terms of the potential sale to Microsoft, but said, “what’s critical, though, is that it has to sever all ties to ByteDance and to China.”
“It can’t just be data and servers housed in the United States,” Cotton went on to explain. “There can be no code, there could be no algorithms, there can be no ties whatsoever between a new U.S.-based TikTok and ByteDance [or] China.”
Fox News' Ronn Blitzer and FOX Business’ Charles Gasparino, Lydia Moynihan and Evie Fordham contributed to this report.