United States President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign ran Facebook ads this weekend claiming that the Chinese-owned short-video app TikTok is spying on users.
The ads link to a survey asking whether TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance, should be banned in the US. They also ask for respondents’ names and contact details.
“TikTok is spying on you,” claimed one advertisement. “TikTok has been caught red-handed by monitoring what is on your phone’s clipboard,” it said.
TikTok is facing scrutiny in Washington about concerns that China could force the company to turn over its user data.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US was “certainly looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok. India banned TikTok and other Chinese apps in June.
TikTok has said it has never provided user data to China and that it would not do so if asked, and a spokeswoman told Reuters News Agency on Monday that the company has “no higher priority than promoting a safe app experience that protects our users’ privacy”.
Last month, when Apple released to developers a test version of its iOS operating system with new privacy features, developers showed images of TikTok’s app triggering notifications that it was copying data from users’ clipboards, where data is temporarily stored while copying and pasting from one app to another.
TikTok said the notifications were caused by an anti-spam feature, but it ended the practice June 27.
TikTok also hit out at Facebook for running the ads. “Facebook is taking money for a political ad that attacks a competitor just as it’s preparing to launch a TikTok copycat,” the spokeswoman said in an email to Reuters.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. The company’s photo-sharing app Instagram will soon be expanding its test of a short video format called Reels to the US, according to media reports.