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Tiktok was set to be banned in the United States by executive order two years ago by then-President Donald Trump. After several months, the issue died down, but it is now being debated again in Washington. The problem is the social media platform’s connection to China via Bytedance, TikTok’s parent company.
US legislators have denounced TikTok and urged President Biden to take action to regulate the app. They contend that the business violates data privacy and national security. This comes after Buzzfeed News revealed that data belonging to US users had been repeatedly accessed from China.
According to the June report, several TikTok management meetings were held, during one of which a TikTok employee stated, “Everything is seen in China.”
According to Tiktok, their company has “consistently maintained that our engineers in locations outside of the US, including China, can be granted access to US user data on an as-needed basis under those strict controls.” This came as a response to the report.
Last year, a TikTok executive testified before a Senate committee, assuring the US government that the company does not share its data with the Chinese government. The executive also informed the Senate that there is an existing US-based security team that protects US user-related data from China.
Authorities rule out any privacy concerns as TikTok grows in popularity among Americans.
When Biden became president, the executive order that Trump had issued was revoked, and TikTok easily attracted millions of US users. The corporation claims to have over 1 billion active users monthly, with more than 100 million of those members residing in the US.
As a result, the social media platform has had a significant impact on fashion, music, news cycles, and many other areas. To compete with the rising popularity of TikTok, other major media companies have also cloned its features.
What lawmakers think of TikTok
Investigations into the company’s data storage methods have been requested by lawmakers.
A coalition’s leader, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, forwarded a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asking if the Biden administration had taken steps to address “the national security and privacy threats posed by TikTok.”
Tennessee Senator Marsh Blackburn wrote another letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew seeking answers in an effort to contribute to the investigation. The company should “confirm what lawmakers long suspected about TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance — they are using their access to a treasure trove of US consumer data to surveil Americans,” said the senators led by Blackburn.
Another group of legislators requested in writing that TikTok and ByteDance be the subject of a formal inquiry by the Federal Trade Commission. The lawmakers stated in the letter: “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.”
In a letter in response to the allegations, TikTok’s CEO wrote, “We have not provided US user data to the [Communist Party of China], nor would we if asked.”
National security might be at stake
TikTok has long worked to refute claims that they have violated privacy and national security. Such allegations do, however, occasionally surface.
“The fact that the Chinese government, if it really wants to, can make any company in its borders comply with data access requests, I think, is really at the root of a lot of these concerns about TikTok,” said Justin Sherman, a fellow at the Cyber Statecraft Initiative of the Atlantic Council.
He added, “There are real national security questions being asked.”
“But if all you’re doing is writing letters about specific companies and not actually writing and testing laws and regulations to control for risks, in the long run, nothing’s really going to change too much,” Sherman explained.