US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Tom Cotton have asked officials in the intelligence community to investigate the popular Chinese-owned app TikTok to see whether it poses a risk to national security.
In a letter to the acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire, the senators raised concerns about how the video sharing platform collects user data and questioned whether it censors content for US users. They also suggested that TikTok could be targeted by foreign influence campaigns.
In the US, there is growing concern over security and censorship issues with TikTok, which is owned by the Beijing-based tech company ByteDance, and other content platforms that are owned by Chinese companies.
- Your iOS browser could be sending tracking data to China
- Mitigating security risks: we speak to Huawei US security chief
- Disinformation campaign from China uses VPN to trick YouTube
Senator Marco Rubio has also asked US authorities to review allegations that the Chinese government uses TikTok for political censorship.
US user data
Senator Schumer and Senator Cotton have both urged investigators to look into how TikTok collects users' location data and other sensitive personal information. While TikTok says that US user data is stored in the US, the senators argue that ByteDance is still governed by Chinese laws.
Earlier this month, Senator Rubio asked that a US national security panel review ByteDance's acquisition of Musical.ly back in 2017. He was also concerned that TikTok “only had a few videos of the Hong Kong protests that have been dominating international headlines for months”.
In a statement to Reuters, a TikTok spokesperson explained that China does not have jurisdiction over the app's content because the app does not operate in China, saying:
“The Chinese government does not request that TikTok censor content. To be clear: We do not remove videos based on the presence of Hong Kong protest content. TikTok is committed to being a trusted and responsible corporate citizen in the US, which includes working with Congress and all relevant regulatory agencies.”
Hopefully will learn more about how TikTok handles US user data and whether or not the video sharing platform is actually a threat to US national security if the intelligence community ends up deciding to follow up on the senators' request.
- We've also highlighted the best VPN services of 2019