Senators urge U.S. Justice Dept to probe TikTok, Zoom

FILE PHOTO: The Zoom Video Communications logo is pictured at the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York, New York, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senators Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, and Josh Hawley, a Republican, wrote to the U.S. Justice Department on Thursday to urge a probe of video technology company Zoom (ZM.O) and Chinese-owned social media company TikTok.

The two lawmakers said they were asking for the investigation because of reports of violations of Americans’ civil liberties.

The lawmakers also noted that Americans, many of whom are largely staying home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, were substituting Zoom calls for personal interaction and binging on Tiktok videos.

They said that the two companies sought to downplay their ties with China.

“Based on numerous reports, we are extremely concerned that Zoom and TikTok have disclosed private information about Americans to the [People’s Republic of China] and engaged in censorship on behalf of the Chinese government,” they said in the letter to Assistant Attorney General John Demers.

“We believe that it is imperative that the Department of Justice investigate and determine whether Zoom and TikTok’s business relationships, data handling practices, and operational connections to China pose a risk to Americans.”

The Justice Department, Zoom and TikTok did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Zoom shares, which were earlier trading Thursday up 1%, fell by more than 5% after Reuters reported the letter but later recovered some losses, recently trading down 2% from Wednesday’s close at $247.24, off $5.15 a share.

The letter added “both Zoom and TikTok have failed to answer even basic questions about their business operations, including who has access to personal information and when they comply with request from China or other governments.”

Reporting by Diane Bartz; additional reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Aurora Ellis

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