But a TikTok executive, in a rare interview on CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday, claimed there were no security concerns related to the hugely successful app.
On the surface, TikTok is certainly light-hearted, allowing users to share content like dance videos and cooking guides. However, critics believe that something more sinister may be built into his model, claiming its power stems from its data collection and algorithms.
TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, which means the company is essentially under the control of the Chinese government, said Brian Stelter, CNN’s chief correspondent.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said Stelter lawmakers asked TikTok directly whether Beijing was accessing data. Instead of being open, he said the company has said repeatedly that all US user data is stored in the US.
The FCC is not responsible for social media, emphasized Stelter. But Carr said the FCC has come to understand how the Chinese government can take data and infiltrate communications.
The claim that TikTok collects browsing history is “just plain wrong,” said Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy, Americas. He also said that while the app scans your face for filters, it doesn’t use them to identify anyone.
Stelter asked if members of the Chinese Communist Party had seen non-public TikTok user data. “The answer is that we have never shared any information with the Chinese government, nor would we,” Beckerman said, adding that they have security teams in the US.
“Are TikTok’s engineers, the people who are developing this tool, building this tool, committed to China, and is that a threat to the US?” Stelter asked again.
“No, absolutely not. TikTok is not a security threat,” Beckerman said, adding that TikTok is willing to be transparent and work with stakeholders.
The Buzzfeed report also said there were concerns that China could use TikTok to “influence Americans’ commercial, cultural or political behavior.”
“Yeah, I just don’t see that,” Beckerman said, saying the videos he sees are all from US creators.
“We’ve worked really hard to eliminate anything from our platform that’s dangerous, harmful, and against our community guidelines.”