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Press Release Published: Jul 14, 2022

Comer & McMorris Rodgers Launch Investigation into TikTok Accessing U.S. User Data from China

WASHINGTON—House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) and Committee on Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) today are pressing TikTok on allowing China-based employees of its parent company, ByteDance, to access sensitive data belonging to American users. In a letter to TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew, the lawmakers request all documents and communications outlining the relationship between TikTok and ByteDance, as well as any of their data sharing, access, and storage practices.

“We write to request documents and information regarding recent reports that TikTok allows China-based employees of its parent company, ByteDance, to access non-public U.S. user data, contrary to the company’s previous denials. If true, not only did TikTok misrepresent or provide false testimony about its data management and security practices, but it has placed the safety and privacy of millions of U.S. citizens in jeopardy,” write the Republican lawmakers.

According to a recent Buzzfeed News article, recordings from nine different TikTok employees indicated that individuals in China had access to U.S. users’ data. TikTok executives previously denied this fact. TikTok has stated that all U.S. data is stored in servers in the U.S. or Singapore or via U.S. cloud storage, but a TikTok consultant said there is backdoor access to user data in almost all the tools for data visualization, content modernization, and monetization. This raises serious questions about whether millions of U.S. users’ data has been accessed in China and if it has fallen into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“These facts are particularly concerning considering the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on homegrown technology. In 2017, the CCP passed the National Intelligence Law of the People’s Republic of China. This law requires individuals, organizations, and institutions to assist CCP Public Security and State Security officials in carrying out and executing ‘intelligence’ work,” continue the Republican lawmakers. “It is unclear if this applies to only Chinese companies or encompasses those with any operating footprint in China, like ByteDance—TikTok’s parent company. Unequivocally, the data collected by TikTok on U.S. users, such as browsing and search history, biometrics, location data, and other metadata, would be a massive national security risk in the hands of CCP intelligence.”

Ranking Member Comer is also requesting that Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury and Chair of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, provide a briefing on the status of ongoing negotiations with TikTok to protect U.S. user data from falling into the hands of the CCP.  

The letter to TikTok can be found here.

The letter to Secretary Yellen can be found here.