Washington, DC – As COVID-19 continues and Americans spend more time at home, more people are turning to and downloading mobile applications. One of these applications is TikTok, a video-sharing application that has seen both the number of unique users and the time spent on the app skyrocket during this time. As these numbers continue to rise, so do the privacy concerns regarding American users’ personal information. To make matters worse, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, a Chinese company, has had ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
COVID-19 has put a much-needed focus on protecting American consumers, holding bad actors accountable, and stopping supply chain threats. That’s why Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) demanded answers from ByteDance on these privacy concerns and ties to the CCP. The E&C Republican leaders asked 22 questions related to TikTok’s potential violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA); TikTok’s collection and use of Americans’ information and whether such information is being shared with the CCP; TikTok’s corporate governance; and issues related to the COVID-19 crisis.
Learn more in POLITICO Morning Tech.
POLITICO Morning Tech
By Alexandra Levine, with help from Cristiano Lima, John Hendel, and Leah Nylen
May 21, 2020
FIRST IN MT: HOUSE GOP LEADERS ADD TO TIKTOK HEAT ON THE HILL — Top House Energy and Commerce Republicans are grilling TikTok parent company ByteDance today about the social media platform’s privacy and security practices, a move that highlights the growing coalition of officials scrutinizing the firm.
— In their first-ever letter to the Chinese tech giant, Reps. Greg Walden (Ore.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) say that lawmakers in Congress have “significant concerns over TikTok’s data practices, including whether TikTok continues to violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and whether TikTok shares American user’s information with the Chinese Communist Party.”
— In a four-page letter set to be sent this morning, the lawmakers quiz ByteDance CEO and founder Yiming Zhang about the company’s child safety protocols and its compliance with a 2019 settlement with the FTC over allegations it violated COPPA. Walden and McMorris Rodgers, the top Republicans on E&C and its consumer protection subcommittee, respectively, also call on ByteDance to detail the extent of its relationship with the Chinese government and to outline whether TikTok has “implemented any additional safeguards to protect information it collects on American users.” The company in recent months has faced increased pressure from an array of China hawks and children’s privacy advocates on Capitol Hill.
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