Two US Senators Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, and Josh Hawley, a Republican wrote to the U.S Justice Department on Thursday to urge a probe of video technology company Zoom and TikTok for allegedly disclosing private information about their users to the Chinese government.

In a letter to Assistant Attorney General John Demers, Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, and Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, accused the two popular online apps of hiding vulnerable ties and dependencies on China.

Representatives from both companies denied any sharing of data with Chinese authorities

We are extremely concerned that Zoom and TikTok have disclosed private information about Americans to the [People’s Republic of China] and engaged in censorship on behalf of the Chinese government. As tens of millions of Americans turn to Zoom and TikTok during the Covid-19 pandemic, few know that the privacy of their data and their freedom of expression is under threat due to the relationship of these companies to the Chinese government. Zoom and TikTok have sought to conceal and distract from their meaningful ties to China, holding themselves out as American companies. This concealment is alarming – Chinese tech firms are notoriously bound to draconian intelligence laws, media regulations and extrajudicial pressure that compels them to censor and spy for China’s state security services.

Blumenthal and Hawley

The appeal to Demers by the two senators follows confirmation by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday that TikTok is undergoing a national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, also known as CFIUS.

A representative for TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, responding to a query about the Blumenthal/Hawley letter, said that

Our content and moderation policies are led by our US-based team in California and aren’t influenced by any foreign government, and we publish information about how our recommendation system works. TikTok US user data is stored in the US with a backup in Singapore with strict controls on employee access. We’ve never shared TikTok user data with the Chinese government, and would not do so if asked. Period.

TikTok Spokesperson

The two lawmakers said they were asking for the investigation because of reports of violations of Americans civil liberties.

Source: South China Morning Post

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