TikTok a no-show at subcommittee hearing on data privacy

Video platform TikTok was a topic of contention at a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing this week, following the U.S. government launching a national security review of the social media company's Chinese-based parent company, ByteDance, in late October.

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The review is set to determine if the companies violated data and privacy laws, like storing U.S. user data in China and removing content at the request of the Chinese government.

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TikTok, along with Apple — which has also come under fire in recent months on privacy concerns — was invited to appear at the hearing, titled “How Corporations and Big Tech Leave Our Data Exposed to Criminals, China and Other Bad Actors,” but neither showed.

"If you don't know what TikTok is, you should," Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who chaired the hearing, said, calling the company "a Chinese-owned social media platform so popular among teens that Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly spooked."

"A company compromised by the Chinese Communist Party knows where your children are, knows what they look like, what their voices sound like, what they're watching, and what they share with each other," he said.

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Since its debut in 2017, TikTok, has exploded in popularity, clocking in more than 26 million active users a month. In a letter to the subcommittee last month, the firm's U.S. general manager, Vanessa Pappas, denied any wrongdoing, saying that no "governments, foreign or domestic, direct how we moderate TikTok content — that is left in the capable hands of professional content moderation teams led by our U.S.-based team."

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She said the company, nonetheless, plans to engage in ongoing, independent audits of its data security practices, and that it has employed "a dedicated technical team focused on adhering to robust cybersecurity, data privacy and security practices."