Frustration Over TikTok Rises : Early last year, Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican. And Jake Sullivan. President Biden’s national security adviser, met to discuss China and industrial policy. During their conversation, Mr. Rubio raised his worries about Beijing’s influence over TikTok, the Chinese-owned viral video app.
Under former President Donald J.
Trump. TikTok had been embroil in questions over whether it could compromise U.S. national security by sharing information about Americans with China. The issue. Which was never resolved. Was inherit by the Biden administration. Mr. Sullivan “shar our concerns.” Mr. Rubio said in an interview.
Their discussion was one of many that lawmakers have quietly had with government officials about TikTok since President Biden took office. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. The Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Said he had also been in “active conversations” with the administration about the app. Which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. And regulators and other government officials have been weighing what to do about it after scrutinizing other Chinese firms.
These behind-the-scenes conversations signal how tensions over TikTok have simmered in Washington. While the app appeared to fade as a political flashpoint after Mr. Trump left office last year, lawmakers and government officials have privately grown frustrated over the Biden administration’s lack of progress in policing TikTok and other Chinese apps that could leak data to Beijing.
That dissatisfaction has boiled over into public view in recent months
after new revelations from BuzzFeed and other news outlets about TikTok’s data practices and ties to its Chinese parent. Mr. Rubio and Mr. Warner have recently called for a Federal Trade Commission investigation into the app, while a regulator at the Federal Communications Commission publicly said that TikTok should be booted from American app stores.
A group of Republican senators has also demanded answers from TikTok about who could access the app’s data. On Tuesday. Officials in the House of Representatives told staff members that they did not recommend using or downloading the service. Citing security concerns, according to an email obtained by The New York Times.
“It’s just not been a priority over there, unfortunately, and I hope it will become one with the new revelations,” Mr. Rubio said of the Biden administration’s progress on TikTok.
The bipartisan scrutiny of TikTok,
effectively at its most intense since Mr. Trump tried to force the app’s sale to an American buyer in 2020, is mounting as the platform grows ever more popular. With more than one billion users, TikTok has become a prime engine for cultural phenomena, like the scores of young people who posted last month about dressing in suits to see the latest “Minions” movie. Today, 67 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds in the United States use the app, according to a report last week from the Pew Research Center.
In an interview, Mr. Beckerman called TikTok’s data collection “all very minor” compared with other social apps. To reduce security concerns, the app has said that it plans to store all its American data solely on Oracle servers in the United States, deleting its backups in Singapore and Virginia, and managing access from the United States. The process, Mr. Beckerman said, would probably be finished this year. He did not offer a specific date.
The White House may be preparing to act soon on broader policy around apps that could expose data to foreign adversaries. Earlier this year, it circulated a draft of an executive order that would give the government more power to intercede in cases where data is at risk of being exposed to an adversary. The Biden administration is also expected to issue guidance soon for a committee that vets transactions involving foreign companies, telling it to be especially sensitive to cases that could expose Americans’ data to other governments. It is also considering ways to review whole classes of potentially risky deals, rather than approaching them on an individual basis.
“The Biden administration is focused on the challenge of certain countries.
Including China. Seeking to leverage digital technologies and Americans’ data in ways that present unacceptable national security risks while advancing authoritarian control and interests.” Said Saloni Sharma. A spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “The administration is also reviewing additional potential actions to address this challenge.”
TikTok has faced security questions for years, especially in 2020 when Mr. Trump issued an executive order to block it from the Apple and Google app stores unless ByteDance sold the app to an American firm. He later announced a deal to sell part of the app to Oracle, the American cloud computing giant, but it never came to pass. Federal courts eventually ruled that Mr. Trump’s order blocking TikTok was illegal, along with another blocking the Chinese-owned app WeChat, and last summer, Mr. Biden rolled both back.
But the government has continued trying to reduce risks associated with TikTok. The app and the committee on foreign investment in the United States. which vets international involvement in deals. Have been quietly negotiating a resolution to the government’s concerns. According to people tracking the discussions.
While a larger team is working on how to cordon off U.S. user data. Only around 10 TikTok employees have seen the draft agreement between the company and the government. TikTok said. Reflecting the closely held nature of the negotiations. A spokesman for the Treasury Department. Which oversees the committee on foreign investment. Declin to comment on TikTok. And said the group is committ to safeguarding national security.