Lawmakers ask U.S. intelligence chief to review if TikTok is a public safety threat

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Two lawmakers have urged the government’s most senior U.S. intelligence official to evaluate if video-sharing app TikTok could pose “public safety risks” to the United States.

In a letter by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), the lawmakers questioned the director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire if the app maker can be forced to turn Americans’ data over to the Chinese officials.

The Stem of The Issue

TikTok has around 110 million downloads till date and has nailed in popularity for its capability to record short, snappy videos that are sharable over social media networks.

But the lawmakers state because a Beijing-based company controls TikTok, it could be enforced by the Chinese government to turn over user data.

For example, like location data, cookies, metadata and more, even if it is saved on servers, it holds in the United States.

Schumer and Cotton both warn that TikTok’s mother company, ByteDance, is “still expected to adhere” to Chinese law.

Safety experts have voiced concerns that China’s hazy patchwork of data, public security, and cybersecurity laws force Chinese firms to assist and help with data work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

Without an objective judiciary to evaluate requests made by the Chinese authority for data or other actions, there is no legal tool for Chinese companies to appeal if they oppose a request.

That same legal policy works both ways. 

U.S. companies have been locked out, or had their limited access, in some nation-states including China over concerns that they could be forced to spy on account of the U.S. government.

In the result of the Edward Snowden revelations, which exposed the U.S. government’s vast monitoring operation, many major tech companies were all separated from China’s established state purchases list between fear of U.S. cooperation in surveillance.

The senators also stated they are concerned that the app was editing content “deemed politically sensitive” to Beijing. 

When contacted, a spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would not disclose any information.

TikTok’s Reaction 

TikTok told it was “thoroughly reviewing” the letter.

TikTok spokesperson Josh Gartner said that they would not be giving any more comment on it at this point other than to reaffirm that TikTok is confined to being a committed and responsible corporate citizen in the United States. This involves working with Congress and all applicable regulatory agencies.

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