Marco Rubio, Mark Warner Want FTC to Investigate TikTok

Pointing to reports that TikTok is exposing U.S. users’ data, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Mark Warner, D-Va., called this week for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate.

Warner, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rubio, the vice-chairman of the committee, wrote FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan on the matter.

“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,” they 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 counterintelligence investigation that may be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“TikTok’s Trust and Safety department was aware of these improper access practices and governance irregularities, which – according to internal recordings of TikTok deliberations – offered PRC-based employees unfettered access to user information, including birthdates, phone numbers, and device identification information,” they continued. “Recent updates to TikTok’s privacy policy, which indicate that TikTok may be collecting biometric data such as faceprints and voiceprints (i.e. individually-identifiable image and audio data, respectively), heighten the concern that data of U.S. users may be vulnerable to extrajudicial access by security services controlled by the CCP.”

At the end of last month, Rubio and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen regarding the Biden administration’s plans to combat national security risks associated with TikTok, a social media platform owned by Chinese company ByteDance.

At the end of May, Rubio called on the White House to prohibit TikTok Shop from operating in the U.S.

Rubio called on President Joe Biden to stop TikTok Shop “from fully operating in the U.S. Executive Order 13873, issued in May 2019 by the Trump administration, empowers the U.S. Department of Commerce to restrict certain information and communications technology and services ‘transactions’ that pose an undue or unacceptable risk to U.S. national security or the safety of U.S. persons when those transactions involve ‘foreign adversaries.’”

TikTok Shop started a pilot program in the fall of 2021.

Rubio pointed to TikTok’s ties to the Chinese regime as why Biden should invoke the executive order he recommended.

“President Biden should make clear that TikTok Shop will not be allowed to operate in the United States,” Rubio said. “Just like TikTok itself, TikTok Shop is beholden to the Chinese Communist Party. It would represent a serious threat to Americans’ personal privacy and U.S. national security. The Biden administration has the power to prevent TikTok Shop from operating in America, and now it needs to use it. And if, for some reason, bureaucratic lawyers get in the way, President Biden should ask Congress for the necessary authorities. We cannot keep letting Chinese Communist Party-directed companies invade and weaken our country.”

At the start of last year, brought back his proposal for tougher standards and more restrictions on some foreign software and apps, including WeChat and TikTok thanks to their connections to the Chinese regime.

At the end of October 2020, Rubio brought out the “Adversarial Platform Prevention (APP) Act” which “would establish a set of data protection and censorship related standards and restrictions that must be met by high-risk foreign software…in order to legally operate in the United States.” Rubio’s bill would have warning labels on those programs and apps and ensure there are annual public disclosures from the companies running them.

Last year, Rubio sent letters to the CIA, the Army and the U.S. Department of Commerce, warning them about TikTok’s ties to China.

Kevin Derby
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