October 29, 2019
TikTok—the viral short video app launched by Beijing-based ByteDance, which earlier this year announced that it had amassed more than one billion monthly active users worldwide, most of them teens—is facing a growing backlash in the United States.
In fact, according to a report by CNN, U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are warning that the app could pose a national security risk—and are calling on regulators and intelligence agencies to investigate TikTok’s ties to China.
Senators Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) now are demanding that the U.S. intelligence community to assess the national security risks of TikTok and other Chinese-owned platforms—saying in a statement Thursday that such apps could be used to spy on US citizens or become targets of foreign influence campaigns; much like the Russian meddling campaign to influence the 2016 US presidential election.
According to CNN, last quarter, the app was the second most downloaded worldwide, just behind Facebook (FB)-owned messaging platform WhatsApp. It also made $40 million in revenue on the iOS App store last quarter, and has amassed about 100 million users in the United States, according to Sensor Tower.
Because TikTok’s parent company is based in China, it could be compelled “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party,” the senators said, according to CNN—adding in a letter to the Acting US Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire that “there is no legal mechanism for Chinese companies to appeal if they disagree with a request.”
TikTok said in a statement that it stores all US user data in the United States and backs it up in Singapore.
“Our data centers are located entirely outside of China, and none of our data is subject to Chinese law,” the company said in a statement on October 26. “Further, we have a dedicated technical team focused on adhering to robust cybersecurity policies, and data privacy and security practices.”
Research contact @CNN