Lawmakers stumble on data privacy as another tech CEO to testify

Gopal Ratnam, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — House lawmakers are set to meet next month with the CEO of TikTok at a hearing to probe whether one of the most popular apps in the world shares Americans’ data with China and whether it harms young children, the latest face-off between members of Congress and the head of a large social media platform.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who has made Big Tech accountability a key part of her agenda, said Monday that TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew would appear before the committee for the first time on March 23.

“ByteDance-owned TikTok has knowingly allowed the ability for the Chinese Communist Party to access American user data,” Rodgers said, referring to TikTok’s Chinese parent company. “Americans deserve to know how these actions impact their privacy and data security, as well as what actions TikTok is taking to keep our kids safe from online and offline harms.”

It’s not just Republican lawmakers.

“There is evidence that TikTok secretly monitors users, collects sensitive personal information, and shares such information with adversarial actors like the Chinese Communist Party,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., the top Democrat on the Innovation, Data, and Commerce Subcommittee, said in an email. “We cannot let them use TikTok to exploit and manipulate Americans. We need answers.”

TikTok denies that it shares data with China and spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter said the company looks forward to “set the record straight” at the hearing and explain how the company has designed a secure system to store U.S. users’ data in the United States.


Congress hasn’t passed legislation that would protect data privacy, and lawmakers’ efforts on TikTok to date have focused on banning the app from government-issued devices. At least 30 states and the federal government have done so. The fear is that China, with access to the data, would be able to manipulate Americans, and, in the case of government workers, to spy on them.

Lawmakers including Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CBS News Sunday that TikTok would not be able to completely cut itself off from its Chinese parent.

The Biden administration has yet to sign off on a security proposal presented by TikTok to an interagency review panel.

The House committee has in recent years summoned top executives of Facebook parent Meta, Google’s parent Alphabet, and Twitter, among others to answer questions about the companies’ data practices, violations of privacy, and targeting of kids on their platforms. Although lawmakers in both chambers and across party lines have gotten CEOs to answer questions and submit to a grilling, Congress remains divided on how to address the dangers of online social media platforms.


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