Lawmakers Ask FTC Chair to Investigate TikTok Data Practices

Senate Intelligence Committee leaders on Tuesday asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Chinese video app TikTok misled the public about whether Beijing could access US users’ data.

AT letter to Lina Khan, FTC Chairman Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, a Democrat who chairs the Intelligence Committee, and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the top Republican in the group, said they were concerned about recent reports that TikTok user data was being accessed by employees of its parent company ByteDance in China. They also said they are concerned that ByteDance is more involved in TikTok’s decision making than the app has stated in the past.

“In light of TikTok’s repeated misrepresentations regarding its data security, data handling and corporate governance practices, we urge you to take immediate action on this matter,” the lawmakers said.

An FTC spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The FTC has the authority to investigate cases where companies make false claims about their activities. The agency reached an agreement with TikTok in 2019 to drop allegations that an earlier version of the app had incorrectly collected children’s personal data.

For years, TikTok has faced questions from US officials about whether it poses a national security risk because it is owned by a Chinese company. In 2020, President Donald J. Trump cited these security concerns and demanded that the video app be sold if it remains on US app stores. Later he announced a potential deal in which ByteDance would sell at least a portion of TikTok to American tech company Oracle, although the deal never went through.

These questions fell away after Mr. Trump left office, but have recently come to the fore again. Last month, BuzzFeed News informed that ByteDance employees in China gained access to app data in the US as recently as this year, and that employees have struggled to cordon off the information collected by the app.

Following a BuzzFeed report, nine Republican senators, including Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and John Thune of South Dakota, posted on tiktok with questions about his security practices. Last month, FCC member also Apple and Google said should remove TikTok from their app stores. And last week TikTok sends to US lawmakers a letter detailing how it plans to keep US user data separate from its Chinese parent company.