TikTok’s owner ByteDance is to build its first European data centre in Ireland, it has been reported, as the Chinese video app contends with US national security concerns and a possible buyout by Microsoft.
Plans for the Irish data centre comes after it was reported earlier this week that ByteDance was considering moving TikTok’s headquarters overseas, with it reportedly mulling London as its new HQ.
ByteDance (TikTok’s owner) has its existing headquarters in Beijing, and it purchased Shanghai-based Musical.ly in 2017 and used it as the basis for TikTok, which became the first Chinese social media app to become broadly popular in the US.
But its popularity in the United States has brought it to the attention of the US administration of President Donald Trump, who has threatened to ban the app altogether from United States.
US officials are concerned over the collection of personal data on US citizens by a Chinese firm, amidst a trade war between the US and China.
In July the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs unanimously passed a bill banning US federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices, which is to be taken up by the full Senate for a vote.
The House of Representatives has also voted for a similar measure.
TikTok has already been banned in other key markets such as India, over national security concerns and rising tensions after fighting between the two nations in the region resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers (including an officer). China claimed 43 of its soldiers were hurt.
And a fresh twist in the TikTok tale saw Microsoft at the weekend confirming it is engaged in preliminary talks to buy TikTok’s operations in the US.
Chinese state-controlled media outlets reacted angrily to that news and said China would not accept the “theft” of TikTok and would respond.
Yet another twist saw President Trump make an extraordinary intervention, when he said the US Treasury should receive payment as part of any Microsoft acquisition, and he reportedly gave Redmond until 15 September to make the deal to acquire the US operations.
Into this heady mix comes the report from Reuters that ByteDance will expand its Irish presence (it already has a hub dealing with regional regulatory issues in Ireland), with a 420 million euro ($499 million) investment for a data centre in the country.
Ireland already boasts already plays hosts to offices and data centres belonging to the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google.
TikTok’s data centre will create hundreds of jobs, enhance TikTok’s global capability and signals its long-term commitment to Ireland, global chief information security officer Roland Cloutier wrote in a blog post.
“When our data centre is operational, European user data will be stored in this new location,” he added.
Whether that will offset US and European data privacy concerns remains to be seen.