- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2023

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew says his China-founded app has not shared Americans’ data with the Chinese government, as fears mount that the Chinese Communist Party can leverage the platform to influence and track Americans.

Mr. Chew will dispute that his company tracks users of the popular app as he tries to put distance between TikTok and China in prepared testimony he is scheduled to deliver to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.

“TikTok has never shared, or received a request to share, U.S. user data with the Chinese government,” Mr. Chew will say in remarks published by the committee. “Nor would TikTok honor such a request if one were ever made.”

China’s policy of civil-military fusion forces businesses to work with the country’s communist regime, but Mr. Chew will say TikTok’s China-founded owner ByteDance is not an agent of the communist government.

He intends to cite a March 2021 report from the Toronto-based research group Citizen Lab that found no overt data transmission from TikTok to China’s government.

Leaked audio of more than 80 internal TikTok meetings showed engineers in China had access to U.S. data between September 2021 and January 2022, according to recordings obtained by BuzzFeed last year.

SEE ALSO: China criticizes possible U.S. plan to force TikTok sale

ByteDance said in December that it fired four employees who accessed data on journalists from BuzzFeed News and the Financial Times while trying to track a leak of confidential information. 

ByteDance spokeswoman Jennifer Banks told The Washington Times last week that her company’s internal investigation was continuing and the company would cooperate with official investigations. The FBI and Department of Justice are reportedly probing allegations of ByteDance’s snooping.

More than half of the 50 states have banned the TikTok app from government devices, and President Biden signed a law last year requiring TikTok’s removal from federal government devices. The Office of Management and Budget issued guidance in February giving government agencies 30 days to delete TikTok.

The Biden administration has maintained a national security review of the platform that started under the Trump administration, and Mr. Biden has reached no public conclusion about pursuing a broader ban.

Mr. Chew intends to tell lawmakers that there are several misconceptions about the type of data TikTok collects on its users.

“There have been a number of press stories alleging that TikTok tracks people. This is not accurate,” Mr. Chew will say.

He will tell lawmakers that “current versions of the app” do not collect American users’ precise or approximate location information.

Mr. Chew’s gripe with claims that TikTok tracks people may be semantic. More than half of U.S. states have government websites that contain web-tracking code created by ByteDance, according to a Wall Street Journal report this week citing new research shared by the Toronto-based company Feroot Security.

Ahead of his trip to Capitol Hill, Mr. Chew donned jeans and a hoodie in a TikTok video from Washington imploring people to comment with what they love about the app. The 69-second video published Tuesday had more than 80,000 comments as of Wednesday morning.

More than 150 million people in the U.S. use TikTok, according to Mr. Chew.

• This article was based in part on wire service reports.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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