Lawmakers are asking the FTC chairman to investigate TikTok’s data practices

Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether TikTok, the Chinese-owned video app, misled the public about whether Beijing could access US user data.

In a letter to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democrat who chairs the intelligence committee, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the top Republican on the panel, said they were concerned about the recent revelations about TikTok’s user data. It was available to employees of its parent company, ByteDance, in China. They also said they were concerned that ByteDance was more involved in TikTok’s decision-making than the app had previously claimed.

“In light of TikTok’s repeated misrepresentations about data security, data processing and corporate governance practices, we urge you to act promptly on this matter,” the lawmakers said.

A spokeswoman for the FTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The FTC has the authority to investigate cases where companies make misleading claims about their practices. The agency reached a settlement with TikTok in 2019 to resolve allegations that an earlier iteration of the app improperly collected children’s personal data.

For years, TikTok has faced questions from US officials about whether it poses a national security threat because it is owned by a Chinese company. In 2020, President Donald J. Trump cited these security concerns and demanded that the video app be sold if it remained in US app stores. He later announced a potential deal in which ByteDance would sell at least part of TikTok to Oracle, an American technology company, but the deal never materialized.

Those questions have been around since Mr. Trump left office, but have recently resurfaced. Last month, BuzzFeed News reported that ByteDance employees in China gained access to the app’s US data earlier this year, and that the employees tried to block the information the app collected.

Following the BuzzFeed report, nine Republican senators — including Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and John Tunney of South Dakota — wrote to TikTok with questions about its security practices. Last month, a member of the Federal Communications Commission also said that Apple and Google should remove TikTok from their app stores. Last week, TikTok sent a letter to US lawmakers detailing how it planned to keep data about its US users separate from its Chinese parent company.

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