Kevin Mayer’s Sudden Departure from TikTok as CEO After Only 2 Months, Along With Being the COO of ByteDance’s International Operations, Was a Surprise to Many But One. This Editor Predicted 3 Months Ago When It Was Announced He Got the Job, He May Be Gone By Year’s End.
It is Not A Surprise, As Beyond the Sudden Political Executive Order by Donald Trump, TikTok Faces at Least Two Federal Investigations, One from CFIUS and Another from the FTC (Which is a Follow-Up to an Investigation for Pre-Teen Data Collection That They Were Fined For).
Along With, A U.S. District Court Case for Using Artificial Intelligence to Collect Data on Teens in California, Under the Illinois law, known as the Biometric Information Privacy Act. – Yes, It’s Complicated (thank you NPR).
Any of Which Could See Kevin Mayer Called Under Oath to Testify.
Placing Him in a Parlous Situation if He Remained as CEO and COO of TikTok and ByteDance, Due to Any Non-Disclosure and Contractual Stipulations.
By Ryan Carroll, Managing Editor
On August 27th Kevin Mayer in a letter to TikTok employees stated the Trump Administration and “political dynamics” have changed TikTok International, and that this is the reason why he is abruptly leaving the company.
While on the same day Walmart made it officially known that they were teaming up with Microsoft for its bid, against companies such as Twitter, Oracle, and the venture capital firms that are behind ByteDance itself (even though ByteDance is a Chinese entity based in Beijing, it is 70% financed by international foreign VC such as Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic in the U.S., and Softbank in Japan).
Walmart is an interesting turn of events but one not that surprising as they have signed a five-year deal with Microsoft’s cloud server Azure, and has implemented their Office 365 into their productivity applications. And, integrating TikTok into the upcoming Walmart+ launch could be a boon, as Walmart’s base is old and white (editor’s note: I am based in Fayetteville Arkansas, just miles from Bentonville the home of Walmart’s Home Office, and I have worked for the Sam Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas), so witnessing Walmart’s base firsthand is a daily occurrence.
With Kevin Mayer’s extensive background and pedigree, and with the team-up of Walmart plus Microsoft bidding for TikTok, and Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillion obviously knowing Kevin Mayer on a personal level, as he knows Bob Chapek, the new CEO of Disney (if I am wrong about him testifying, it could be that Doug McMillion and Kevin Mayer do not have a good standing personal relationship…..). Why did Kevin Mayer suddenly step down?
I believe it has to do with the extensive investigations, and previous fines that TikTok has face, and is facing, on it collection of teen and pre-teen data, that Kevin Mayer was not aware of before taking the job. Along with, ByteDance’s attorneys recent written admittance U.S. District court:
NPR reported on August 4th that several families representing dozens of minors (meaning children) are:
alleging that the video-sharing app collects information about their facial characteristics, locations and close contacts, and quietly sends that data to servers in China. Twenty separate but similar federal lawsuits were filed over the past year on behalf of TikTok users in California, where the company has offices, and Illinois, which requires that technology companies receive written consent before collecting data on a person’s identity. The suits now have been merged into one [sic] and U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [sic] by Judge John Z. LeeNPR
This allows for TikTok to share any and all data with “corporate affiliates” meaning other companies owned by ByteDance around the world, that are not named ByteDance, who may then share all data with ByteDance itself. So, third-part party partners and service providers are not even needed to hand the sensitive teen and potentially pre-teen data back to China and its other entities. According to ByteDance’s own attorney’s in a written statement to U.S. Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
This is not the first time that TikTok has collected data on teens, as the FTC has already found them guilty of collecting data on pre-teens and has even re-open the case this summer on suspension that they never stopped once they were fined.
TikTok agreed in February  to pay a $5.7 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission over allegations the app illegally collected personal information from children under age 13 without parental consent, in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, Business Insider previously reported.Business Insider
On July 7th the FTC stated that they are, again, looking into TikTok for not living up to the February 2019 agreement of protecting children under the age of 13 data and privacy rights.
When speaking to the Indian government in an official press briefing Kevin Mayer stated that:
“I can confirm that the Chinese government has never made a request to us for the TikTok data of Indian users,” CEO Kevin Mayer assured the Indian government. “If we do receive such a request in the future,” he added, “we would not comply.” That data, TikTok says, is stored in Singapore anyway, beyond the reach of Beijing.Forbes
This is technically true but as the attorneys who were not only representing TikTok but ByteDance themselves in U.S. Federal Court stated, ByteDance does not need to request the data from TikTok itself to retrieve such data. And, if it did access that data itself from China, whether from its servers in the U.S. or Singapore, it would be completely legal; if they were teens or not.
My prediction of Kevin Mayer going before the FTC, CFIUS, the U.S. Federal District Court in Illinois, or a Congressional Committee, possibly before year’s end, is why he decided to end his tenure as CEO of Chinese-owed TikTok and COO of the Chinese company ByteDance.
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About the Author
Born and raised in the Missouri-Ozarks Ryan studied Film Production, and East Asian Culture, at the University of Kansas where he was a UGRA recipient that led him on a seven-year long, Journey From the West, to China. Where he worked with Warner Brothers, the China Film Group Corp. and the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Before returning to the States, where he specializes in Chinese Anime & Comics, China’s Box-Office, and Chinese entertainment-tech industries. He has a dog in China, Abigail, and a dog in the Arkansas-Ozarks, King Blue, who help ease his anxiety of suffering from the “Two-Dimensional Complex” that is trying to understand the Culture Industry landscapes of the Middle Kingdom.