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Saturday, October 1, 2022

Two senators call for FTC probe into TikTok over US data access

TikTok, a social media app, and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, are being investigated for “repeated misrepresentations” regarding how they handle data from users in the United States, according to the chair of the Intelligence Committee in the United States Senate and the most senior Republican in the chamber.

The request was made on Tuesday by Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat, and Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican. It came in response to a report published by Buzzfeed that claimed the short video app allowed TikTok engineers and executives in China to repeatedly access the private data of users in the United States. The senators said that such access raised issues about TikTok’s promises to legislators and users that the data was safeguarded, and that TikTok had made such representations.

The senators issued a letter to the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Lina Khan, urging her to take swift action on the topic “in light of repeated misrepresentations by TikTok about its data security, data processing, and corporate governance standards.”

Tuesday, TikTok released a statement stating that access to user data “is subject to a variety of stringent controls, protections such encryption for specific data, and authorised approval methods monitored by our U.S.-based leadership/security team.”

In response to the letter sent by the senators, the business said once again that “TikTok has never given U.S. user data with the Chinese government, nor would we do so if requested.”

TikTok admitted in a letter that was sent out on Thursday that workers working in China “may have access to TikTok U.S. user data subject to a number of stringent cybersecurity controls and authorisation approval mechanisms monitored by our U.S.-based security team.”

Senators were informed by Shou Zi Chew, the Chief Executive Officer of TikTok, that the company was collaborating with Oracle Corporation on “new sophisticated data security procedures that we intend to finalise in the near future.”

In their letter, the senators highlighted a BuzzFeed news article regarding stolen internal recordings that claimed workers of ByteDance stationed in China had “at the absolute least” access to data belonging to the United States.

In a letter sent to Congress on Thursday, TikTok said that the company had not deceived lawmakers over the privacy and security controls and processes it employs. The previous month, TikTok said that it had finished the process of transferring information about its U.S. customers to servers at Oracle, but that it was still using data centres in the United States and Singapore for backup purposes.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has been under pressure to sell the app ever since a panel tasked with overseeing national security in the United States ordered the company to do so nearly two years ago. The panel was concerned that user information from American citizens could be shared with the communist government of China.

TikTok is one of the most widely used social media applications on the planet, with more than one billion active users throughout the globe. The United States is the app’s most important market.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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