Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) urged Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai to remove TikTok from the companies’ app stores over national security concerns.
ByteDance, the Beijing-based company which owns TikTok, has been accused of maintaining close ties with the Chinese Communist Party. Bennet is the latest of several Republican and Democratic officials to express opposition to the social media platform’s presence in the United States; he warned the technology executives that Chinese law obligates ByteDance to “support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work.”
“These obvious risks render TikTok, in its current form, an unacceptable threat to the national security of the United States,” Bennet wrote in a letter. “No company subject to CCP dictates should have the power to accumulate such extensive data on the American people or curate content to nearly a third of our population. Given these risks, I urge you to remove TikTok from your respective app stores immediately.”
Bennet also cited a report from Forbes which indicated that ByteDance planned to track the location of specific American citizens. An internal audit and risk department started by the company was initially supposed to investigate misconduct from current and former employees, but the team allegedly planned to collect data about the location of at least one American who had never been employed by ByteDance.
“TikTok’s prevalence in our country also allows it to amass extensive data on the American people, including device information, search and viewing history, message content, IP addresses, faceprints, and voiceprints,” Bennet continued. “Independent security researchers discovered that TikTok also had the capacity to engage in ‘keylogging,’ allowing it to monitor Americans’ keystrokes and inputs on third-party web browsers opened in the app, such as Apple’s Safari and Google Chrome.”
The letter comes shortly after President Joe Biden signed legislation banning TikTok from all devices owned by the federal government. Several states, including Nebraska, Alabama, Iowa, and North Dakota, had previously banned the platform from government devices.
TikTok, which surpassed Google and other competitors to become the most visited website in the world two years ago, pioneered the vertical video format that other firms have since sought to emulate. Bennet said that the average American spends more than 80 minutes per day on the app, surpassing the amount of time spent on Facebook and Instagram combined.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify before members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee next month. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) said in a statement that the firm has “knowingly allowed the ability for the Chinese Communist Party to access American user data.”
Federal and state officials have become increasingly wary of Chinese companies. The Biden administration investigated Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei over concerns that cell towers in the United States equipped with the company’s devices were transmitting data on nearby military facilities to the Chinese Communist Party. A final rule published last year by the Federal Communications Commission likewise prohibited Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, and Dahua from importing and selling certain technology considered a potential threat to national security. The new rule, however, does not apply to technology currently within the nation’s borders.