WASHINGTON, D.C. – The popular social media and video app TikTok was the focus of a congressional hearing. The app’s CEO was in the hot seat, getting grilled by congressional members concerned about the app’s data privacy and its links to the Chinese government.
Tiktok has about one billion users. 150 million of those users, are Americans.
The relationship between the popular app and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, has raised national security concerns among US officials and congressional members on both sides of the aisle.
The CEO of TikTok, Shou Chew, testified before congressional members. Members’ questions and statements reflect their growing distrust with the popular app.
“TikTok collects every datapoint imaginable to people’s location, to what they type and copy, who they talk to, biometric data and more,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R- WA). “That is 150 million Americans the CCP can collect information on and control what we ultimately see, hear and believe.”
“You’d be willing to make that commitment that from now on you won’t collect location or health data without- you’re saying at all,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ). “Is that a commitment?”
“This is data that is frequently collected by many other companies,” responded TikTok CEO Shou Chew.
“I know other companies do it,” replied Pallone. “I don’t think they should without affirmative consent, you said you wanted to be a good actor so why not make that commitment to me today?”
“We are committed to being very transparent with our users about what we collect,” responded Chew.
Aside from the concerns about the CCP’s influence on TikTok, the app has faced criticism about its influence on young people.
“TikTok collects vast troves of valuable personal information that creates an addictive algorithm that can predict with uncanny accuracy that which videos will keep users scrolling even if the content is harmful, inaccurate and shows destructive behavior or extreme misbeliefs,” said Pallone.
Members on both sides of the aisle are using this hearing as an opportunity to call on strengthening data and security laws. For some, they are calling for a total ban on TikTok because of its ties to the Chinese government.