The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence wants the Biden administration to investigate TikTok over allegations that the social media company has misrepresented how it handles people’s data.
Sens. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, and Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, wrote to the Federal Trade Commission to ask it to investigate the company’s assertions about how the Chinese-owned app gathers and processes Americans’ data.
“The majority of TikTok data — including content posted by users as well as their unique IDs — will remain freely accessible to PRC-based ByteDance employees,” the senators wrote referring to the People’s Republic of China. “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.”
The bipartisan duo cited revelations that engineers in China had access to U.S. data last year, according to leaked audio of internal meetings obtained by BuzzFeed. The senators said they doubted TikTok’s assertions about its efforts to safeguard data from the Chinese Communist Party.
TikTok has previously touted its partnership with American tech company Oracle to develop data management plans, which TikTok said Oracle will audit.
Asked about the senators’ letter, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said no American data was ever shared with the Chinese government.
“For two years, we’ve talked openly about our work to limit access to user data across regions, and in our letter to senators last week we were clear about our progress in limiting access even further through our work with Oracle,” Ms. Oberwetter said in a statement. “As we’ve said repeatedly, TikTok has never shared U.S. user data with the Chinese government, nor would we if asked.”
The Chinese government will not need to ask, according to the senators. Mr. Warner and Mr. Rubio wrote that a series of national security laws imposed by the communists since 2014 means TikTok‘s Chinese parent company ByteDance will be forced to obey the government.
Mr. Warner and Mr. Rubio said the laws give the communist regime the authority to compel access to users’ data regardless of where it is located.
The senators also asked FTC Chair Lina Khan to coordinate the requested investigation with any counterintelligence or national security investigation that the Justice Department may undertake.
FTC spokesperson Juliana Gruenwald said her agency received the senators’ letter and she declined to comment on it.