Two US senators have demanded a top-level investigation into China-owned short video platform TikTok over its handling of user data.
The call by Democratic Senator Mark Warner and his Republican colleague Marco Rubio followed a Buzzfeed report saying TikTok engineers and executives in China could access private data of US users.
The senators said such access raised questions over the company’s claims to lawmakers and users that the data was protected. They demanded a full-scale probe by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Warner chairs the US Senate intelligence committee and Rubio is the most senior Republican on the panel.
‘Misrepresentations’ By TikTok
“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 senators wrote in a letter to FTC chair Lina Khan.
TikTok said on Tuesday that access to data “is subject to a series of robust controls, safeguards like encryption for certain data, and authorisation approval protocols overseen by our US-based leadership/security team.”
The company responded to the senators’ letter by reiterating that it “has never shared US user data with the Chinese government, nor would we if asked”.
TikTok has denied a claim by a Federal Communications Commission member that it collected faceprints, browsing history and keystroke patterns from US users.
However, FCC commissioner Brendan Carr said he was “quoting directly from TikTok’s own disclosures”.
TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew told senators the company was working with Oracle on “new advanced data security controls that we hope to finalise in the near future”.
TikTok is one of the world’s most popular social media apps, with more than 1 billion active users globally, and counts the US as its largest market. It is owned by privately held Chinese tech unicorn ByteDance.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell