But a TikTok executive, in a rare interview on CNN’s “Trusted Sources” on Sunday, insisted there are no security concerns associated with the hugely successful app. labour.
On the surface, TikTok is certainly fun, allowing users to share content including dance videos and cooking tutorials. But critics think something more sinister could be built into its model, arguing that its strength comes from its data collection and algorithms.
CNN’s chief correspondent Brian Stelter said TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, which means the company is essentially under the control of the Chinese government.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told lawmakers Stelter asked TikTok directly if any data is being accessed by Beijing. Instead of paying upfront, he said, the company has repeatedly said all US user data is stored in the US.
The FCC has no authority over social media, Stelter pointed out. But Carr said the FCC has developed an understanding of how the Chinese government can obtain data and hack communications.
Michael Beckerman, head of public policy, Americas, at TikTok, said claims that TikTok is collecting browser history are “simply untrue”. He also said that while the app scans your face for filters, it doesn’t use it to identify individuals.
Stelter asked if any Chinese Communist Party members had viewed non-public TikTok user data. “The answer is that we have never shared information with the Chinese government, and neither do we,” Beckerman said, adding that it has security teams in the US.
“TikTok’s engineers who are developing this tool, make this tool, do they have an eye on China, and is that a threat to the US?” Stelter asked again.
“No, not at all. TikTok is not a security threat,” Beckerman said, adding that TikTok is willing to be transparent and work with stakeholders.
The Buzzfeed report also said there are concerns that China could use TikTok to “influence the commercial, cultural or political behavior of Americans.”
“Yeah, I just don’t see that,” Beckerman said, adding that the videos he watches are all by creators in the US.
“It’s something that we’ve worked really hard on to remove from our platform anything dangerous or harmful that violates our community guidelines.”