An executive at TikTok faced tough questions on Tuesday during the video-sharing app’s first appearance at a US congressional hearing, saying it does not give information to the Chinese government and has sought to safeguard US data, Reuters reports.
Senators at the hearing also voiced concerns that TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based internet technology company ByteDance, and rivals YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc., and Snapchat have algorithms that can be harmful to young people.
Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas, testified before a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee. Republicans in particular pressed Beckerman on worries regarding TikTok’s stewardship of data on the app’s users.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, the panel’s top Republican, said she is concerned about TikTok’s data collection, including audio and a user’s location, and the potential for the Chinese government to gain access to the information. Blackburn questioned Beckerman on whether TikTok could resist giving data to China’s government if material were to be demanded.
“We do not share information with the Chinese government,” Beckerman responded, according to Reuters.
Beckerman also testified that TikTok’s US user data is stored in the United States, with backups in Singapore.
“We have a world-renowned U.S. based security team that handles access,” he stated.
Beckerman also said TikTok would be willing to provide the app’s algorithm moderation policies in order for the Senate panel to have it reviewed by independent experts.
In August of 2020, then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order giving Americans 45 days to stop doing business with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, saying Chinese tech operations may be used for spying.
The administration at the time contended that TikTok poses national security concerns as personal data collected on 100 million Americans who use the app could be obtained by China’s government. TikTok denies the allegations.
The company later announced it will challenge the crackdown on the service in court.
Current President Joe Biden later revoked Trump's plan, but sought a broader review of various foreign-controlled apps.