TikTok CEO to appear in U.S. committee over ban questions
TikTok’s CEO took center stage on Thursday before a U.S. congressional committee, facing tough questioning about data security and user safety, and himself on why the hugely popular video-sharing app shouldn’t be. Prohibited.
Shou Zi Chew’s testimony comes at a critical time for the company, which has 150 million American users, but comes under increasing pressure from US authorities. TikTok and its parent company ByteDance have become embroiled in the broader geopolitical battle between Beijing and Washington over trade and technology.
The 40-year-old Singapore native has made rare public appearances to defend against a series of accusations facing TikTok. On Wednesday, the company sent dozens of his popular TikTokers to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to keep the platform alive. It also posts ads across Washington promising to protect users’ data and privacy and create a safe platform for young users.
In his prepared remarks released ahead of the hearing, Chu told the U.S. House of Representatives Energy to deny allegations that TikTok prioritizes the safety of young users and the app poses a national security risk. and to the Commerce Commission.
TikTok claims that Chinese ownership means user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government, or that it could be used to further a narrative favorable to China’s Communist Party leaders. have been plagued by
“We understand the popularity of Tiktok. We understand it,” White House Press Secretary Carine Jean-Pierre said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. It’s about reaffirming that national security is protected as well.”
Meanwhile, TikTok has tried to distance itself from its Chinese origins by saying that parent company ByteDance is 60% owned by global institutional investors such as the Carlyle Group. ByteDance was founded in Beijing in 2012 by Chinese entrepreneurs.
“Let me make this clear: ByteDance is not an agent for China or any other country,” Chew said.
The US ban on the app is unprecedented and it is unclear how the government will enforce it.
Experts say authorities may try to force Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores. This prevents new users from downloading his TikTok, prevents existing users from updating, and ultimately renders it useless.
The US can also block access to TikTok’s infrastructure and data, seize domain names, and force Internet service providers such as Comcast and Verizon to filter TikTok’s data traffic, Boston said. Ahmed Ghappour, a criminal law and computer security expert who teaches at a university law school. .
But tech-savvy users can get around the restrictions by using virtual private networks to make it appear that the user is in another unblocked country.
To get around the ban, TikTok is trying to pitch officials with a $1.5 billion plan called Project Texas. It routes all US user data to domestic servers owned and controlled by software giant Oracle. In this project, access to US data is controlled by US employees through a separate organization called TikTok US Data Security, which employs 1,500 people, operates independently of ByteDance, and is monitored by external observers. increase.
As of October, all new US user data was stored in the US. The company began removing all historical US user data from its non-Oracle servers this month. The process is expected to be completed later this year, Chew said.
Many Western countries, including Denmark, Canada and New Zealand, along with the European Union, have already banned TikTok from devices issued to government employees, citing cybersecurity concerns.
In the US, the federal government, Congress, the military, and over half of the states have banned apps on official devices.
Former government intelligence officer David Kennedy, who runs cybersecurity firm TrustedSec, said he decided to restrict TikTok access on government-issued phones because they may contain sensitive military information and other sensitive materials. I agree. But a nationwide ban might be too extreme, he said. He also wondered where it would lead.
“China has Tesla, China has Microsoft, China has Apple. Are they going to start banning us now?” Kennedy said. “It can escalate very quickly.”
Chan reported from London.