WASHINGTON: TikTok’s chief executive will tell lawmakers the Chinese-owned short video app with more than 150 million American users has never, and would never, share US user data with the Chinese government amid growing US national security concerns.
“TikTok has never shared, or received a request to share, US user data with the Chinese government. Nor would TikTok honour such a request if one were ever made,” CEO Chew Shou Zi will testify on Thursday (Mar 23), according to written testimony posted on Tuesday by the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.
He added that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is not owned or controlled by any government or state entity. “Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” Chew will say to the committee.
TikTok’s critics fear that its US user data could be passed on to China’s government by the app and prompted growing calls to ban the app by US lawmakers. Last week, TikTok said the Biden administration demanded that its Chinese owners divest their stake in the app or it could face a US ban.
“Bans are only appropriate when there are no alternatives. But we do have an alternative,” Chew’s testimony said.
TikTok’s testimony before Congress on Thursday comes in the face of growing calls for the short video app to be banned across America and serves as one of the Chinese company’s most-detailed rebuttals to the accusations against it.
TikTok has said it has spent more than US$1.5 billion on what it calls rigorous data security efforts under the name “Project Texas” and has tried to convince lawmakers and the Biden administration to support the plan.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a powerful national security body, had unanimously recommended in 2020 that ByteDance divest TikTok.
Under pressure from then-President Trump, ByteDance in late 2020 unsuccessfully sought to finalise a deal with Walmart and Oracle to shift TikTok’s US assets into a new entity and Trump then lost court battles seeking to ban TikTok.