TikTok CEO Shou Chew dodged questions Thursday about whether tactics by parent company ByteDance used to “spy” on American journalists could be used to target more Americans.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington questioned Chew on reporting by Forbes that staff at ByteDance used TikTok data last year to surveil journalists who were covering the company, gaining access to their IP addresses to track whether they had been in proximity to ByteDance employees.
“TikTok spied on American journalists. Can you say with 100% certainty that neither ByteDance, nor TikTok employees, can target other Americans with similar surveillance techniques?” Rodgers asked.
“I disagree with the characterization that it’s ‘spying,’” said Chew.
Public officials, lawmakers and experts have raised national security concerns regarding ByteDance’s connections to China, with the Biden administration even threatening to force the parent to sell TikTok or else face a nationwide ban, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Rodgers adjusted her question, asking for a yes or no answer to the question, “Can you do surveillance of other Americans?”
Chew responded that TikTok will protect U.S. user data from foreign access.
“I wanted to hear you say with 100% certainty that neither ByteDance nor TikTok employees can target other Americans with similar surveillance techniques as you did with the journalists.”
“Again, I disagree with the characterization of ‘surveillance,’” Chew said.
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