TikTok pushes back on House official’s warning about use
TikTok pushed back on claims that a top House official made last week about security concerns related to the social media platform.
The company sent a letter to Chief Administrative Officer of the House Catherine Szpindor on Thursday, obtained by Politico. The company wrote that her “TikTok Cyber Advisory” contains inaccurate information and needs to be rescinded. The advisory warned lawmakers of security risks with the platform.
When asked for confirmation, a spokesperson for TikTok said the letter Politico published “appears to be authentic.”
Szpindor’s office said in the memo that the office considers TikTok as a high risk due to a lack of transparency about how it protects user data, its requirement of “excessive permissions” for people to use the app and potential security risks associated with using it.
The office concluded that members of Congress should not download or use the app because of these security and privacy concerns.
The memo said the app stores users’ data location, photos and other personally identifiable information in servers in China, but TikTok rejected that in its letter, saying it stores information in its own data centers in the United States and Singapore.
Michael Beckerman, vice president and head of public policy in the Americas for TikTok, said in the letter that all the U.S. user traffic is being directed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and that the company expects to delete users’ personal information from the data centers and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers in the U.S.
He denied claims in the memo that the platform uses facial recognition technology or uses face and voice data to identify users.
Beckerman said that TikTok does not automatically collect precise GPS location data, as the memo states. The letter states that the company does collect users’ approximate location based on their SIM card and IP address, which helps improve the user experience, comply with local laws and prevent fraud.
He said TikTok does not collect information such as the SIM card’s serial number, active subscription information or integrated circuit card identification numbers.
Beckerman said he wants to meet with Szpindor to discuss the information in TikTok’s letter.
Szpindor’s memo came as an increasing number of lawmakers have begun using TikTok to convey messages and reach new demographics ahead of the November midterm elections.
Almost every Democratic lawmaker voted for a provision in last year’s defense policy bill that prevented government employees from using TikTok on any government-issued device, but numerous caucus members have posted content on the platform.