TikTok, one of the most widely used apps in the world, could be in danger in the United States. This week, Democratic Party Senator Michael Bennet asked tech giants Apple and Google to remove the short video app from their app stores (App Store and Play Store), citing national security concerns.
In a petition that follows recent investigations of TikTok by the US Congress, the US Senate Intelligence Committee member called TikTok an “unacceptable threat to the national security of the United States“. He also cites the suspicions that the country’s government and more than half of its states wielded to block the app on both official networks and devices.
In a letter echoed by Forbes, Bennet addresses the CEOs of Apple and Google – Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, respectively – highlighting fears that the Chinese government may force TikTok or ByteDance, its parent company, to hand over the private data in the app of U.S. citizens, making use of its national security laws.
Laws that, according to Bennet, could force companies residing in China to “cooperate with state intelligence efforts,” as well as allow the Chinese government access to company resources. Both ByteDance’s founder, Zhang Yiming, and its current CEO, Shou Zi Chew, are Chinese, and the company has offices in China.
He also cites his concern about TikTok being able to alter or influence what U.S. users can see on the app thanks to its algorithm, something that could have serious implications related to the American country’s democracy and foreign policy under its laws.
“We must accept the very real possibility that China could force TikTok, through ByteDance, to use its influence to promote the interests of the Chinese government,” Bennet commented, “for example, by modifying its algorithm to feature U.S. content that undermines U.S. democratic institutions or silences criticism of China’s management of Hong Kong, Taiwan or ethnic minorities.”
Although so far there is no evidence that there has been any attempt by TikTok to manipulate or spy on US users, US security experts have warned that this could be a possibility. For this reason, Shou Zi Chew will testify in March before a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, who will have to explain what data security measures the company carries out.