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TikTok CEO to face US Congress and defend the app against privacy concerns

TikTok chief executive Shou Chew will front up to a congressional hearing overnight on the company’s efforts to protect the privacy of its users in the United States.

user icon David Hollingworth
Thu, 23 Mar 2023
TikTok CEO to face US Congress and defend the app against privacy concerns
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The House Energy and Commerce Committee has already shared Chou’s remarks ahead of the hearing. The main thrust of Chew’s testimony will address child safety and data privacy — a major issue at the moment as the US government and others around the world are banning TikTok’s use on official devices.

It is believed by many that ByteDance — TikTok’s owner — could allow Chinese government authorities access to user data, or that it may be attempting to use the app’s wide reach to influence its users to China’s benefit.

Over the 10-page address, Chew depicts TikTok as largely a knowledge platform capable of enriching lives and educating its users.

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“Whether it’s demonstrating a new science experiment or the latest cooking trend, people around the world use TikTok to unleash creativity,” Chew said.

“As an example, BookTok, with more than 100 billion views, has connected readers across the globe and changed the way people consume literature. Although some people may still think of TikTok as a dancing app for teenagers, the reality is that our platform and our community have become so much more for so many.”

But Chou will also directly address growing privacy concerns, with a four-point plan to promote trust in the app and protect its US users.

  1. TikTok will keep safety — particularly for teenagers — a top priority for us;
  2. TikTok will firewall protect US user data from unauthorised foreign access;
  3. TikTok will remain a platform for free expression and will not be manipulated by any government;
  4. TikTok will be transparent and give access to third-party independent monitors to remain accountable for our commitments.

“The bottom line is this: American data stored on American soil, by an American company, overseen by American personnel,” Chew said. “Today, US TikTok data is stored by default in Oracle’s servers. Only vetted personnel operating in a new company, called TikTok US Data Security, can control access to this data. Additionally, we have plans for this company to report to an independent American board with strong security credentials.”

It remains to be seen whether Congress, and the wider US government, can be swayed on the matter, however. FBI director Christopher Wray has said that the way TikTok operates “screams out with national security concerns”, and both Canada and New Zealand have restricted TikTok’s use on government devices.

TikTok has over 150 million users in the US alone.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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