US Congress questions TikTok CEO on consumer privacy and data security concerns News
Lorend_g / Pixabay
US Congress questions TikTok CEO on consumer privacy and data security concerns

TikTok CEO Shou Chew Thursday testified before the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Lawmakers questioned Chew on TikTok’s consumer privacy and data security practices amid growing national security concerns from lawmakers and the Biden administration.

Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) opened the hearing by stating, “Mr. Chew, you are here because the American people need the truth about the threat TikTok poses to our national and personal security.” The hearing centered around recent claims that TikTok–owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance–collects data on American users for the Chinese government.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers hounded Chew with questions. Lawmakers covered topics spanning the TikTok algorithm’s impact on young users to the federal government’s role in regulating or potentially banning TikTok in the US.

During the more than five-hour-long hearing, Chew responded to calls to ban TikTok from the US and repeatedly emphasized that TikTok is independent from Chinese government control. Chew said in his opening remarks, “TikTok itself is not available in mainland China, we’re headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore, and we have 7,000 employees in the [US] today.” Chew also highlighted TikTok’s recently announced “Project Texas,” which aims to protect US user data by shifting American user data to US soil.

That said, Chew appeared to dodge questions regarding TikTok’s data security practices.  Lawmakers appeared unconvinced by Chew’s testimony, with Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) stating at one point, “I am not being reassured by anything you’ve said so far…frankly, your testimony has raised more questions for me than answers.”

Since the app’s popularity exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, TikTok has come under increasing pressure from US government officials regarding its connections to the Chinese government. Recently the Biden administration threatened to ban TikTok from the US, joining a growing wave of bans among government agencies around the world. The Wall Street Journal reported on March 15 that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US issued an ultimatum to TikTok regarding its links to the Chinese government. US lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have already introduced bills to ban more than 150 million US users’ access to TikTok.

For now, TikTok remains available to users globally, but governments in Canada, the European Commission, Wisconsin and North Carolina have banned the app from government devices for security reasons.