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Blumenthal & Moran Call for Restrictions of TikTok's U.S. Operations Amid Concerns Over National Security & Consumer Privacy

The senators’ letter comes after TikTok parent company ByteDance admitted that its employees improperly accessed data on U.S. TikTok users, including two journalists

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) raised deep concerns over the risks TikTok poses to U.S. national security and consumer privacy, and called for structural restrictions on TikTok’s American operations. Blumenthal and Moran’s letter to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) comes after ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, disclosed that its employees used data on U.S. TikTok users to surveil American journalists.

“We write with profound concern regarding the risks that TikTok poses to our national security and to consumer privacy, and to urge the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to swiftly conclude its investigation and impose strict structural restrictions between TikTok’s American operations and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, including potentially separating the companies,” wrote Blumenthal and Moran in a letter to Treasury Secretary and CFIUS Chair Janet Yellen.

The lawmakers referenced myriad concerning practices stemming from ByteDance’s ownership of TikTok, including misuse of Americans’ private data, control over algorithmic systems, and censorship of topics deemed critical of the Chinese government and other authoritarian regimes.

“ByteDance’s engineers continue to have dangerous access to Americans’ personal data and control over its algorithmic recommendation systems, access that continues enable this spying on journalists. TikTok has failed to implement adequate protections in the four years since it acquired the app, despite continued assurances to the contrary,” wrote the senators.

“[T]he risks associated with TikTok are not limited to sensitive account data and information collected through advertising trackers, but include the app’s access to hours of personal videos and discussions of tens of millions of Americans, and its control over the platform’s powerful algorithmic recommendation system,” continued the lawmakers. “As TikTok plays an increasingly important role in American civic and political life, we should be concerned whether Chinese entities can promote or hide particular topics, especially in the service of the Chinese government’s political interests.”

“At a minimum, CFIUS should ensure that executive decision making about the platform is based in the United States and fully free from coercive influence from Beijing. It must also ensure that decisions about, and access to, all personal data, algorithms, and content moderation relating to American users is out of the reach or influence of the Chinese government,” concluded Blumenthal and Moran. “We cannot rely on paper promises and unenforced half measures from a company that has abused our trust when our national security is at stake.”

The full text of the letter can be found here.