October 3, 2022

Two US senators are urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate TikTok after leaked audio recordings indicated that employees in China had access to TikTok user data.

“These findings undermine longstanding claims by TikTok management that the company’s operations are being blocked from demands by the Chinese Communist Party,” Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Warner (D-Va), said in a statement.

On Tuesday, the senators sent a message(Opens in a new window) to the Federal Trade Commission, calling on the agency to launch an investigation into TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, on the grounds that the Chinese company engaged in unfair deception.

The senators also urge the FTC to “coordinate this work with any national security or counterintelligence investigation that the US Department of Justice may initiate.”

Senators cite in June Report(Opens in a new window) From BuzzFeed, which obtained audio recordings from 80 internal meetings on TikTok. They note that Chinese ByteDance employees gained access to US-based TikTok user data as recently as January 2022, despite the company Claims(Opens in a new window) Personal data was not accessed from China.

At one point in the audio recordings, a Beijing-based engineer at ByteDance was described by a TikTok manager as a “lead manager” with “access to everything”. Includes birthdays, phone numbers, and device identification information. Senators are also concerned that TikTok may collect vital data from users, such as “face and voice fingerprints,” which could then be passed on to the Chinese government.

In addition, Senator Rubio Warner noted that TikTok may have “misrepresented its corporate governance practices” during previous meetings with US lawmakers. “In light of TikTok’s repeated misrepresentations regarding data security, data processing, and corporate governance practices, we urge you to act immediately on this matter,” the FTC senators said.

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TikTok downplays the data privacy threat. in Mail(Opens in a new window) On Tuesday, the video app said its employees sometimes need access to internal user data, but for engineering purposes. “This access is subject to a series of robust controls, safeguards such as encryption of certain data, and authorization approval protocols overseen by our US-based security team,” TikTok said.

In a statement sent to PCMag, a TikTok spokesperson added: “For two years, we speak frankly(Opens in a new window) About our work to limit access to user data across regions, and in our letter to senators last week, we were clear about the progress we’ve made in restricting access further through our work with Oracle. as we are said repeatedly(Opens in a new window)TikTok has never shared US user data with the Chinese government, and we wouldn’t be able to if asked.”

The FTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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