Lawmakers Demand FTC Investigate TikTok Over Data Access Scandal

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Lawmakers are calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate TikTok following reports that U.S. user data was accessed in China.

In an open letter this week, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) urged FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan to open a formal investigation after BuzzFeed News reported that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance repeatedly rifled through U.S. user data despite years of denials that China had no access.

“We write in response to public reports that individuals in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been accessing data on U.S. users, in contravention of several public representations, including sworn testimony in October 2021,” the senators wrote. “In light of this new report, we ask that your agency immediately initiate a Section 5 investigation on the basis of apparent deception by TikTok, and coordinate this work with any national security or counter-intelligence investigation that may be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice.”

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Section 5 allows the FTC to investigate unfair commerce acts that involve foreign countries.

The senators further alleged that TikTok is well aware of “these improper access practices and governance irregularities” and that employees in China were able to access a wide swath of U.S. user data including birthdates, phone numbers, and device identification information.

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And with recent updates suggesting that TikTok could soon begin collecting biometric data such as faceprints and voiceprints, the senators warned “that data of U.S. users may be vulnerable to extrajudicial access” from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“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 letter concludes.

Warner and Rubio are far from the first in the nation’s capital to demand increased scrutiny on TikTok. Just last month, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr urged Apple and Google to outright remove TikTok from their app stores.

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*First Published: Jul 7, 2022, 10:06 am CDT

Mikael Thalen

Mikael Thalen is a tech and security reporter based in Seattle, covering social media, data breaches, hackers, and more.



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