Photo Credit: Reuters
Then-president Donald Trump had plans to ban Tiktok in the US two years ago through an executive order. The issue has died down several months later, but now, it is now under fire again in Washington. The issue being the social media platform’s connection with China through Bytedance, the parent company of TikTok.
US lawmakers have spoken out against TikTok and urged the President Biden to take steps regulating the platform. According to them, the company goes against national security and data privacy. This is after Buzzfeed News reported that data of the users from the US have been accessed from China repeatedly.
The June report revealed several TikTok management meetings, one of which an employee of TikTok said, “Everything is seen in China.”
The report was responded by the management of the social media platform, saying that the company has “consistently maintained that our engineers in locations outside of the US, including China, can be granted access to US user data on an as-needed basis under those strict controls.”
An executive from TikTok appeared before a Senate panel last year and assured the US government that it does not share its data with the Chinese government. The executive further told the Senate that there is an existing US-based security team that gatekeeps the US user-related information from China.
As TikTok becomes one of the widely used platforms among Americans, authorities rule out looming privacy issues.
When Biden took over, the executive order made by Trump was junked and TikTok had ease in penetrating US-based users by the millions. According to its data, the company has over 1 billion active users every month, with over 100 million users based in the US.
As an effect, the social media platform has widely influenced music, trends, news cycle, and many more. Other media giants have also copied the features that TikTok has to compete with the growing interest of people with the platform.
Lawmakers to Tiktok
Lawmakers have called for investigations relating to the company’s data storage practices.
Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, the leader of a coalition, forwarded a letter to Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary, which asked if the Biden administration had taken initiatives to counter “the national security and privacy risks posed by TikTok.”
In an effort to contribute to the investigation,Tennessee Senator Marsh Blackburn wrote another letter addressed to TikTok CEO, Shou Zi Chew looking for answers. According to the senators led by Blackburn, the company should “confirm what lawmakers long suspected about TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance — they are using their access to a treasure trove of US consumer data to surveil Americans.”
Another group of lawmakers wrote to the Federal Trade Commission and asked them to conduct a formal investigation to TikTok and ByteDance. In the letter, the lawmakers said, “In light of repeated misrepresentations by TikTok concerning its data security, data processing, and corporate governance practices, we urge you to act promptly on this matter.”
TikTok CEO Chew quickly responded through a letter and claimed that “We have not provided US user data to the [Communist Party of China], nor would we if asked.”
National security as basis for investigation
TikTok has long made efforts to debunk allegations that suspect them of violating national security and privacy. However, such statement goes and comes around every now and then.
Justin Sherman, a fellow at the Cyber Statecraft Initiative of the Atlantic Council, said, “The fact that the Chinese government, if it really wants to, can make any company in its borders comply with data access requests, I think is really at the root of a lot of these concerns about TikTok.”
“There are real national security questions being asked,” he added.
“But if all you’re doing is writing letters about specific companies and not actually writing and testing laws and regulations to control for risks, in the long run, nothing’s really going to change too much,” Sherman concluded.
Opinions expressed by CEO Weekly contributors are their own.