Warner, Rubio ask FTC to investigate TikTok over ‘apparent deception’ on US data

(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

Top senators on the Intelligence Committee requested the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigate TikTok over concerns that the company is misleading the public about its data practices. 

Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sent a letter to the FTC Tuesday urging the agency to launch an immediate investigation on “the basis of apparent deception by TikTok.”

The letter escalates the scrutiny from lawmakers, largely among Republicans, on the popular video sharing app since BuzzFeed reported last month that employees of TikTok’s parent company in China have access to private data on U.S. users. 

“In light of repeated misrepresentations by TikTok concerning its data security, data processing, and corporate governance practices, we urge you to act promptly on this matter,” the senators wrote. 

In response to the letter, a TikTok spokesperson said “for two years, we’ve talked openly about our work to limit access to user data across regions, and in our letter to senators last week we were clear about our progress in limiting access even further through our work with Oracle.”

“As we’ve said repeatedly, TikTok has never shared U.S. user data with the Chinese government, nor would we if asked,” the spokesperson added

Last week, following other inquiries from U.S. officials, a spokesperson said the company will “gladly engage with lawmakers to set the record straight regarding BuzzFeed’s misleading reporting.” 

“Like many global companies, TikTok has engineering teams around the world. We employ access controls like encryption and security monitoring to secure user data, and the access approval process is overseen by our US-based security team. TikTok has consistently maintained that our engineers in locations outside of the US, including China, can be granted access to U.S. user data on an as-needed basis under those strict controls,” the spokesperson said. 

After the report was published, TikTok said it moved data on users located in the U.S. to Oracle’s cloud platform. Backups of U.S. user data will be stored in TikTok’s own servers in Virginia and Singapore before being deleted in the switch to Oracle. 

The announcement has seemingly done little to mollify critics. 

Last week a group of Senate Republicans sent a letter to the Biden administration over national security concerns they said are raised by the video-sharing app. The Republicans said the administration is failing to address those concerns.

Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr, who was appointed by former President Trump, sent a letter last week to Apple and Google requesting they remove TikTok from their app stores over concerns about data harvesting. 

Carr said TikTok’s announcement that is moving U.S. user data to Oracle servers doesn’t address his concerns since the company has “long claimed” its U.S. user data has been stored on servers in the U.S. “and yet those representations provided no protection against data being accessed from Beijing.” 

Updated at 1:40 p.m.

Tags FTC Marco Rubio Marco Rubio Mark Warner Mark Warner TikTok
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