A smartphone displaying the TikTok logo | pexels.com
A smartphone displaying the TikTok logo | pexels.com
Text Size:

Washington: The Justice Department should investigate whether the popular video apps TikTok and Zoom have violated the constitutional rights of Americans by sharing private information with the Chinese government, two senators wrote in a letter to the agency on Thursday.

The request from Senators Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, and Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, signals growing bipartisan concern over the potential threats of the apps because they have links to China at a time when relations between Beijing and Washington are crumbling.

“We are extremely concerned that Zoom and TikTok have disclosed private information about Americans to the PRC and engaged in censorship on behalf of the Chinese government,” the senators wrote to John Demers, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

“We believe that it is imperative that the Department of Justice investigate and determine whether Zoom and TikTok’s business relationships, data handling practices, and operational connections to China pose a risk to Americans,” the senators wrote.

The senators also asked for the Justice Department and U.S. intelligence agencies to brief Congress on the issue as soon as possible.

Also read: China slams US over threat to ban TikTok, says it’s flouting global trade rules

TikTok has repeatedly rejected accusations that it feeds user data to China or that it is beholden to Beijing, even though its parent company, ByteDance Ltd., is based there.

We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.

Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.


“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S.,” a company spokesperson said earlier this month. “We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

Zoom, based in San Jose, California, came under scrutiny last month after it suspended, then reactivated, the account of a U.S.-based group of Chinese pro-democracy activists. Critics say it did so to appease China’s government. The company has since announced a delay in producing a report about how frequently it discloses information about users to governments.

“Zoom is an American company, founded and headquartered in California, incorporated in Delaware, and publicly traded on Nasdaq,” the company said in statement. “We take user privacy, security, and trust extremely seriously, and as always, we welcome conversations with officials about our global business practices and policies.”

The company previously came under criticism for not providing end-to-end encryption of its popular video conferencing service, which has surged in popularity during the Covid-19 outbreak. That discovery came after researchers found instances when Zoom meetings and their related encryption keys were routed through servers in China, even though no one on the call was based there.

The senators’ request comes after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters on Wednesday that TikTok is under a national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, known as CFIUS, and that President Donald Trump will soon get a recommendation on it.

Hawley and Blumenthal said TikTok and Zoom hold themselves out as American companies but “have sought to conceal and distract from their meaningful ties to China.”

“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,” according to the senators.

Another bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday wrote to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christoper Wray, saying they were concerned that China could use TikTok to carry out influence operations against the U.S., including interfering with the upcoming presidential election.- Bloomberg

Also read: Ban in its face, TikTok starts $200 million fund to help US stars make careers


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it

You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.

You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.

We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.

At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.

This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.

If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.

Support Our Journalism

Share Your Views


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here