WASHINGTON — The CEO of TikTok will make a high-profile look Thursday earlier than a U.S. Congressional committee, the place he’ll face a grilling on information safety and consumer security whereas he makes his personal case for why the vastly widespread video-sharing app shouldn’t be banned.
Shou Zi Chew’s testimony comes at a vital time for the corporate, which has acquired 150 million American customers however is beneath rising strain from U.S. officers. TikTok and its guardian firm ByteDance have been swept up in a wider geopolitical battle between Beijing and Washington over commerce and know-how.
Chew, a 40-year-old Singapore native, is making a uncommon public look to counter the volley of accusations that TikTok has been going through. On Wednesday, the corporate despatched dozens of widespread TikTokers to Capitol Hill to foyer lawmakers to protect the platform. It has additionally been placing up advertisements throughout Washington that tout guarantees of securing customers information and privateness and making a protected platform for its younger customers.
Chew plans to inform the U.S. Home Committee on Power and Commerce that TikTok prioritizes the protection of its younger customers and deny allegations that the app is a nationwide safety threat, in accordance with his ready remarks launched forward of the listening to.
TikTok has been dogged by claims that its Chinese language possession means consumer information may find yourself within the fingers of the Chinese language authorities or that it could possibly be used to advertise narratives favorable to the nation’s Communist leaders.
“We perceive the recognition of Tiktok, we get that,” mentioned White Home press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at a press convention Wednesday afternoon. “However the President’s job is to ensure once more that the Individuals, nationwide safety is protected as effectively. ”
For its half, TikTok has been attempting to distance itself from its Chinese language origins, saying that 60% p.c of its guardian firm ByteDance is owned by international institutional buyers equivalent to Carlyle Group. ByteDance was based by Chinese language entrepreneurs in Beijing in 2012.
“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance will not be an agent of China or some other nation,” Chew mentioned.
A U.S. ban on an app could be unprecedented and it’s unclear how the federal government would go about implementing it.
Consultants says officers may attempt to power Apple and Google to take away TikTok from their app shops, stopping new customers from downloading it in addition to stopping current customers from updating it, finally rendering it ineffective.
The U.S. may additionally block entry to TikTok’s infrastructure and information, seize its domains or power web service suppliers like Comcast and Verizon to filter TikTok information visitors, mentioned Ahmed Ghappour, a felony legislation and laptop safety professional who academics at Boston College Faculty of Legislation.
However a tech savvy consumer may nonetheless get round restrictions through the use of a digital non-public community to make it seem the consumer is in a foreign country the place it’s not blocked, he mentioned.
To keep away from a ban, TikTok has been attempting to promote officers on a $1.5 billion plan known as Venture Texas, which routes all U.S. consumer information to home servers owned and maintained by software program large Oracle. Below the mission, entry to U.S. information is managed by U.S. workers via a separate entity known as TikTok U.S. Knowledge Safety, which employs 1,500 folks, is run independently of ByteDance and could be monitored by outdoors observers.
As of October, all new U.S. consumer information was being saved contained in the nation. The corporate began deleting all historic U.S. consumer information from non-Oracle servers this month, in a course of anticipated to be accomplished later this yr, Chew mentioned.
Numerous Western nations together with Denmark, Canada, and New Zealand, together with the European Union, have already banned TikTok from units issued to authorities workers, citing cybersecurity considerations.
Within the U.S., the federal authorities, Congress, the armed forces and greater than half of states have banned the app from official units.
David Kennedy, a former authorities intelligence officer who runs the cybersecurity firm TrustedSec, agrees with limiting TikTok entry on government-issued telephones as a result of they could comprise delicate navy info or different confidential materials. A nationwide ban, nonetheless, is likely to be too excessive, he mentioned. He additionally questioned the place it’d lead.
“We’ve got Tesla in China, we have now Microsoft in China, we have now Apple in China. Are they going to start out banning us now?” Kennedy mentioned. “It may escalate in a short time.”
Chan reported from London.