Senators are asking the FTC to investigate how TikTok handles US user data

The two senior members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate TikTok and its parent company over user data handling.

In a letter to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the committee’s chairman, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., its vice chairman, citing breaking news reports that TikTok’s parent company, the China-based ByteDance, “accessed US user data in violation of multiple public representations”.

“We request your agency to initiate immediately [an] investigation based on an apparent deception by TikTok and coordinate this work with any national security or counterintelligence investigation that may be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice,” the senators wrote. “Moreover, these recent reports suggest that TikTok has also misrepresented its corporate governance practices.”

Last month, Buzzfeed News reports that US user data was repeatedly accessed from China, raising security concerns that the Chinese government could access sensitive personal information through backdoor methods. TikTok called the report misleading.

On Tuesday, TikTok said it is restricting access to US user data in all regions, including China.

“This access is subject to a robust set of controls, safeguards such as encryption of certain data, and authorization protocols overseen by our US-based governance/security team,” said Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s vice president and head of public policy, Americas in an opinion.

TikTok said last month it had data on US users related to Oracle Corp. ORCL postponed,
Server “to give users even more security.”

But that didn’t allay the senators’ concerns.

“While TikTok has indicated that migrating from a US cloud service provider to US-based storage mitigates any risk of unauthorized access, these recent revelations raise concerns about the reliability of TikTok renderings,” they wrote. “In the face of repeated misrepresentations by TikTok regarding its data security, data processing and corporate governance practices, we urge you to take immediate action on this matter,” they told the FTC’s Khan.

The security of TikTok’s data has been an issue for years, and in 2020 the Trump administration ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok, though that policy was never resolved after the election.

Last week, Brendon Carr, a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission, asked Apple Inc. AAPL:
and GOOGL by Alphabet Inc.,

Google will remove TikTok from its app stores, saying it poses a national security threat, citing the revelations in the Buzzfeed report. Senators are asking the FTC to investigate how TikTok handles US user data

Brian Lowry

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