U.S. Senate panel calls for investigation into TikTok’s data policy


Leaders of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee called for an investigation Tuesday into whether Chinese officials were getting access to data about American users of the short-video platform TikTok.

In a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairperson Lina Khan, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) urged her to scrutinize how well TikTok safeguards private data.

“We write in response to public reports that individuals in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been accessing data on U.S. users, in contravention of several public representations, including sworn testimony in October 2021,” the senators wrote.

The letter was written after BuzzFeed News reported that China-based employees of internet giant ByteDance have been repeatedly accessing data about TikTok users in the U.S. market last month, The New York Post reported.

“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,” the letter added.

TikTok has consistently defended itself against such accusations. The 15-second video platform, has told U.S. senators that it is taking all necessary steps to limit access to users’ data from outside America, including by employees of its parent company, the Chinese group ByteDance.

In a earlier letter addressed to nine Republican senators last Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew explained how the company would operate the app from servers controlled by Oracle, the US cloud computing giant.

He also reiterated a plan to store US users’ personal information with Oracle, rather than on TikTok’s servers.
“We know we are among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of U.S. user data,” Chew said in the statement cited by The New York Times.

TikTok, which is highly popular for its short and viral meme-making videos, has been working to rebut concerns that it is a national security risk.

The short format video platform remains under the scrutiny of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a group of government agencies that vets foreign purchases of American companies.

Last month, a member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also said Apple and Google should remove TikTok from their app stores. India banned TikTok in 2020 over national security issues.