Science and TechData Privacy and Cybersecurity


TikTok's CEO tries to convince lawmakers app isn't a security risk

As TikTok's CEO Shou Zi Chew was set to testify before a House committee on risks, his app connected 150 million active users in the U.S. alone.
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Posted at 8:51 PM, Mar 22, 2023

The popular social media platform TikTok, with its parent company ByteDanceheadquartered and founded in China, spent at least $5.4 million in 2022 to lobby Washington lawmakers for support and convince them that its user data is protected.

The issue at hand? National security worries that are not just a concern to the U.S. government. 

While FBI Director Chris Wray has publicly raised concerns over security amid TikTok's proliferation in the United States, a list of countries and entities have taken steps to try and ban the app or limit its use. The United Kingdom and New Zealandtook steps to blockTikTok from government devices as the FBI and the Department of Justice in the U.S. continues to investigate the company for spying on journalists. 

TikTok's CEO Shou Zi Chew has been meeting with lawmakers in Washington in private as he prepares for his first public testimony before a House panel as he is questioned under oath, scheduled for March 23. 

The CEO's career has been analyzed by Western media over the years as he quickly ascended through the corporate leadership ranks of Western and Chinese businesses to now arrive at the helm of a powerful social media tool experiencing a meteoric rise in popularity. 

On Wednesday, Shou will face the House Energy and Commerce Committee to answer questions about the company's practices with consumer privacy and data protection. 

It comes at a time when the tech company boasts about having some 150 million active users at any given time in the United States alone. 

Not all U.S. lawmakers are for a ban, including Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York and Rep. Robert Garcia of California, who have shown public support for keeping the app on the devices of U.S. users. 

Their support aligns with the reasons given by creators on the app, that it is used to connect with friends, family and other content creators, and they don't believe in implementing a potential ban. 

Recently the Biden administration said it would consider a ban on TikTok in the U.S. if the company's owners in China would not be willing to sell their stakes. 

India banned TikTok in 2020 amid a crackdown on nearly 60Chinese-owned apps, which cost ByteDance a massive global market. The Indian government accused the company of secretly sharing user data to servers located outside Indian borders. 

TikTok log on a phone screen.

Some lawmakers worry TikTok threatens national security

President Joe Biden and lawmakers have signaled support for a ban on TikTok, but experts say it won't easy to carry out.