With a potential US ban looming, TikTok is scrambling to reassure US regulators that it will comply with all requirements around transparency, and user data protections, which will see TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23rd, in his first-ever appearance before a Congressional committee.
As reported by Axios:
“Chew will be asked about TikTok's consumer privacy and data security practices, the platforms' impact on kids, and their relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.”
The latter being the main sticking point. Right now, TikTok is under more pressure than ever, amid ongoing fears around how the app could be utilized as a spying device by the Chinese Government, if the CCP were to so choose.
Those fears stem from China’s strict cybersecurity regulations, which stipulate that any Chinese-owned company needs to share internal data, including information on users, on request from CCP officials. There’s no evidence to suggest that the CCP has made any such request of TikTok at this stage, but a recent case saw officials from TikTok owner ByteDance use the app to spy on US journalists whom it suspected of meeting with ByteDance employees.
That’s further increased scrutiny of the app, while at the same time, a growing number of US state officials are banning TikTok on government-owned devices due to spying concerns.
And the situation could be set to get even worse for TikTok in the coming weeks.
Last week, Republican Senator Josh Hawley said that he would soon introduce a new bill calling for a full ban of TikTok nationwide. Hawley has the support of several influential senators in his push, which will once again ramp up pressure on the app, and could indeed see it face expulsion from the US before the year is out.
Which would be a devastating blow for ByeDance. TikTok is hugely popular in the US, and offers massive revenue potential – while you can also imagine that if the US bans the app, other western regions will at least consider following suit.
Which all makes Shou Zi Chew’s upcoming appearance more pressing, and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds to questions about TikTok’s processes and plans in the March 23rd appearance.
That could well be the inflection point, where we get a clearer indication of the app’s future in the US.
Till then, TikTok will continue to push ahead with its $1.5 billion US reformation plan, which includes storing US user data on Oracle servers in the US.