U.S. House Republicans press TikTok on use of kids’ data, ties to Beijing

FILE PHOTO: Tik Tok logo is displayed on the smartphone while standing on the U.S. flag in this illustration picture taken, November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two leading Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives wrote a letter to the founder of the popular video sharing app TikTok on Thursday, asking about potentially illegal use of data about children and ties to the Chinese government.

Representatives Greg Walden, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the ranking member of a consumer subcommittee, asked what information was collected about American users, what data is shared with the Chinese Communist Party or other state-owned entities and whether information on Americans is stored in China.

“TikTok’s seemingly close ties to the Chinese government raise serious concerns about your data practices, including what information your company collects on Americans and what you do with it,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter was addressed to Zhang Yiming, founder and CEO of TikTok owner ByteDance. TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

Security concerns about TikTok are long-standing. In December, the U.S. Navy banned the social media app from government-issued mobile devices, saying it represented a “cybersecurity threat.”

The lawmakers also asked TikTok to respond to a long list of questions regarding how children’s data is treated and if illegally collected data was destroyed, as required under a agreement with the Federal Trade Commission.

The Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and other privacy advocates said on May 14 that TikTok had failed to take down all videos made by children under the age of 13, as it agreed to do under a consent agreement with the FTC announced in February 2019.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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