FIRST ON FOX: Senior House Republicans are launching a probe into the popular social media app TikTok over allegations the company allowed its non-public user data to be accessed from China.
GOP lawmakers on the House Oversight and Energy and Commerce Committees sent a letter to TikTok Thursday requesting documents and communications detailing its relationship with ByteDance. The Beijing-based technology conglomerate is TikTok’s parent company and has come under scrutiny in recent years for its close working relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.
“The data collected by TikTok on U.S. users, such as browsing and search history, biometrics, location data, and other metadata, would be a massive national security risk in the hands of CCP intelligence,” wrote the lawmakers.
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A recent expose, based on more than 80 internal conversations with TikTok employees, unveiled that ByteDance accessed the user data of American subscribers. In some cases, ByteDance even had access when employees from TikTok’s U.S. division did not.
GOP lawmakers say the arrangement is troubling given that as a Chinese company, ByteDance is legally required to share its data with the communist regime in Beijing.
“This law requires individuals, organizations, and institutions to assist CCP Public Security and State Security officials in carrying out and executing “intelligence” work,” the lawmakers wrote.
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In the past, TikTok has claimed that its U.S. user data is stored in America, Singapore, or a U.S.-based cloud storage system.
The company said the expose, which was done by Buzzfeed News, presented an inaccurate picture of its data sharing policies:
“For two years, we’ve talked openly about our work to limit access to user data across regions and keep U.S. user data secure. It is unfortunate that BuzzFeed cherry-picked quotes from meetings about those very efforts and failed to provide adequate context. We look forward to meeting with members of Congress to correct the record on BuzzFeed’s misleading reporting.”
GOP lawmakers say, however, that assertion has been cast into doubt by recent revelations.
“If true, not only did TikTok misrepresent or provide false testimony about its data management and security practices, but it has placed the safety and privacy of millions of U.S. citizens in jeopardy
As such, Republicans are requesting TikTok provide detailed information and documents on its relationship with ByteDance.
Rep. James Comer, the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, also sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen requesting a congressional briefing on the administration’s ongoing efforts to ensure TikTok’s U.S. user data is protected.
Comer, R-KY, said the ongoing nature of the government’s negotiations with TikTok needed to be more transparent as the personal information of millions of U.S. citizens was at risk.
“In light of China’s data-driven monitoring and surveillance initiatives, there are unprecedented implications for the privacy interests of U.S. users in this case, and a strong possibility that TikTok poses an intractable risk to national security,” reads the letter.
The Treasury Department immediately responded to requests for comment.