Home Senators call for TikTok investigation in response to Chinese Communist Party’s access to U.S. data

Senators call for TikTok investigation in response to Chinese Communist Party’s access to U.S. data

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The Federal Trade Commission is encouraged to investigate TikTok and parent company ByteDance in response to recent reports that the social media platform allowed its engineers and executives in the People’s Republic of China to access private U.S. user data.

The formal investigation is being called by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner of Virginia and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio of Florida, according to a press release, because the social media platform repeatedly made claims to lawmakers and users that the data was protected. The data breach includes instances of U.S.-based staff consulting with China-based colleagues regarding information about U.S. user data which they did not have access to on their own. TikTok management has made claims that its operations were firewalled against Chinese Communist Party demands.

“In light of this new report, we ask that your agency immediately initiate a Section 5 investigation on the basis of apparent deception by TikTok, and coordinate this work with any national security or counter-intelligence investigation that may be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice,” Senators Warner and Rubio wrote in a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan.

The report includes information that TikTok misrepresented its relationship with ByteDance and its subsidiaries, including partially-owned Chinese Communist Party and Beijing-based ByteDance Technology.

“TikTok’s Trust and Safety department was aware of these improper access practices and governance irregularities, which – according to internal recordings of TikTok deliberations – offered PRC-based employees unfettered access to user information, including birthdates, phone numbers, and device identification information. Recent updates to TikTok’s privacy policy, which indicate that TikTok may be collecting biometric data such as faceprints and voiceprints (i.e. individually-identifiable image and audio data, respectively), heighten the concern that data of U.S. users may be vulnerable to extrajudicial access by security services controlled by the CCP,” Warner and Rubio state in the letter.

The senators have been vocal about cyber and national security threats from the Chinese Communist Party. They introduced legislation in 2019 to combat tech-specific threats to national security by foreign actors such as China.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.