Database giant Oracle confirmed on Monday that it’s slated to become the “trusted technology partner” of TikTok, the Chinese-owned viral video site with more than 100 million U.S. users. The news came hours after Microsoft revealed that TikTok owner ByteDance had rejected its acquisition, putting an end—for now at least—to a geopolitical drama that has roiled the tech world for months.
The TikTok controversy first flared this summer when the Trump Administration declared it would “ban” the app on national security grounds unless an American company took control of ByteDance’s U.S. operations. In recent weeks, other rumored suitors included Google, Twitter and WalMart.
By Monday, reactions to the Oracle-TikTok deal—which is subject to final review from a powerful interagency committee called CFIUS—began pouring in. For the most part, they are not positive.
Tech watchers have seized on the fact that, under the proposed terms, Oracle will just be a “partner” rather than take ownership of the app’s U.S. operations.
Oracle didn’t beat Microsoft to buy TikTok. Because “trusted tech partner” isn’t the same as buying anything.
No one is buying TikTok.
— Dan Primack (@danprimack) September 14, 2020
What’s more, it appears Oracle will not get access to the algorithms that power TikTok’s AI, which is considered the company’s secret sauce—and which could leave U.S. users vulnerable to Chinese surveillance, as Facebook’s former security chief, Alex Stamos, pointed out.
A deal where Oracle takes over hosting without source code and significant operational changes would not address any of the legitimate concerns about TikTok, and the White House accepting such a deal would demonstrate that this exercise was pure grift. https://t.co/3kpwqnEYol
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) September 13, 2020
Even Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), a close ally of Trump and a China hawk, expressed concerns about whether the “partnership” arrangement would safeguard Americans’ data from Beijing.
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) September 13, 2020
Others on Twitter, meanwhile, focused on Oracle’s close ties to the Trump Administration—Oracle founder Larry Ellison has hosted fundraisers for the President—to suggest that political influence determined the outcome of the deal more than business or security concerns.
Also, the “Larry Ellison raising money for Trump” thing is important, but most are ignoring the fact that Oracle CEO Safra Catz has been chummy with the president since before his inauguration. She even served on his transition team.
— Steve Kovach (@stevekovach) September 14, 2020
Oracle is basically becoming one of those Saudi royal family members who you need to sign up as your “local partner” if you want to open a Toyota dealership there https://t.co/rJrGAZcgSL
— Tom Gara (@tomgara) September 14, 2020
Some reactions to TikTok’s winning bid focused on the business implications of the deal. Oracle’s interest in TikTok has earlier raised eyebrows because the company has no experience in consumer products—raising …read more