WASHINGTON (Reuters) - TikTok, a video app popular with teens, stressed its independence from China in a letter to US lawmakers but failed to convince Senator Josh Hawley, who chaired a hearing on Tuesday on the security of US citizens’ personal data.
TikTok, a unit of Chinese-based ByteDance Ltd, said in a letter to lawmakers, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, that it had hired a US-based auditing firm to analyze TikTok data security practices.
“TikTok claims they don’t store American user data in China. That’s nice. But all it takes is one knock on the door of their parent company based in China from a Communist Party official for that data to be transferred to the Chinese government’s hands,” Hawley, a Republican, said at a hearing of a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Last week, Reuters reported that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, had launched a national security review of TikTok.
In the letter, dated Monday and signed by TikTok US General Manager Vanessa Pappas, the company said it stores all US user data in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore.
It also said it plans to form a committee of outside experts to advise on content moderation and transparency. It added that it will not accept political advertisements.
Hawley has demanded that executives from TikTok, which is just a few years old, testify before the committee under oath, and called the company a threat to national security. Executives from TikTok were not present at Tuesday’s hearing.