TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance spent more than $2.1 million on lobbying from April to June, according to Bloomberg. That’s 130% more than it spent during the first three months of the year — and there’s good reason. The relationship between TikTok and D.C. is rocky.
In June, Buzzfeed reported TikTok employees in China accessed non-public data from users in the U.S. Members of Congress raised the alarm that this was more evidence the Chinese Communist Party could use the app’s data collection to gather information about Americans.
TikTok’s CEO sent senators an eight-page letter that was supposed to put their concerns at ease and “set the record straight.” Instead it escalated the situation.
“Isn’t it amazing? Tiktok will give you the same old same old. And what have we found out? It appears they are letting the Chinese Communist Party have access to your information,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said in a Twitter video.
Sen. Blackburn added in a statement, “They should have come clean from the start but instead tried to shroud their work in secrecy. Americans need to know that if they are on TikTok, Communist China has their information.”
Members of Congress want Tiktok executives to testify, and that would likely lead to legislation that would further hinder its business. That could mean trouble for an app with an estimated 130 million active users in the US.
Lead Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr also called on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores, calling the app an “unacceptable national security risk.” Carr wrote in an open letter to the companies that Tik Tok “harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing.”
The data TikTok collects includes search and browsing histories, keystroke patterns, biometric identifiers such as key prints and voice prints, location data, draft messages, metadata, and everything stored on a device’s clipboard.