Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, was grilled by a US congressional investigators for four and a half hours on Thursday.
Other people can run marathons faster than that, as one legislator noted.
Chew will undoubtedly feel it after a tough time providing evidence. Numerous tech executives have testified before Congress, and they frequently face opposition.
The relentless, merciless line of questioning during this session, however, was outstanding.
There was no letup from either the Republicans or the Democrats. Afterward, a TikTok spokeswoman claimed that the politicians were “grandstanding.” Certainly, there is some truth to that. But despite the somewhat annoyingly verbose questioning, we did pick up a few new skills.
1. Lawmakers opposed TikTok as a group
Republicans and Democrats both criticized TikTok, and there was a glaring lack of trust and skepticism on all sides.
“Welcome to the most bipartisan committee in Congress,” said Republican congressman Buddy Carter.
“Thank you, Mr Chew, for bringing Republicans and Democrats together,” said Dan Crenshaw, a Republican.
It was particularly interesting to observe how many politicians, who rarely agree on anything, firmly agreed that TikTok posed a security risk.
Following the incident, TikTok expressed dissatisfaction about the lack of attention given to the platform’s data security procedures.
“Also not mentioned today by members of the committee: the livelihoods of the five million businesses on TikTok or the [US Constitution] First Amendment implications of banning a platform loved by 150 million Americans,” a TikTok spokesperson said.
2. Chinese ByteDance developers have access to some US data
Chew continued mentioning “Project Texas,” a plan that would have all data stored in the US under the supervision of the American company Oracle.
Project Texas isn’t yet fully functioning, though. According to Chew, engineers at ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, do currently have access to data.
“We rely on global interoperability, Chinese engineers have access to data,” he said.
Politicians repeatedly referenced this admission. They argued that if Chinese engineers can access data, it is difficult to imagine how the Chinese government couldn’t do the same.
The notion that China does not request corporations to share data or intelligence located in other countries was reiterated by the country’s foreign ministry on Friday.
3. Chew owns ByteDance stock.
The attempt Chew made to put TikTok and ByteDance apart was maybe his least effective defense.
By any standard, TikTok is owned by the Chinese firm. Chew was formerly the chief financial officer of ByteDance.
Chew originally refused to answer the question of whether he owned stock in ByteDance. He later admitted it after being prodded by MPs, but he made an effort to downplay the relationship.
The US government is rumored to be considering forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok, and the Chinese government has stated that it would resist such a scheme.
4. The kids of Chew don’t access TikTok
Democratic representative Nanette Barragán quizzed Chew about whether or not his own kids used TikTok at one point in the session.
He claimed that since they reside in Singapore, they didn’t. The app is not available in that nation for users under the age of 13.
Chew did say that the kid-friendly version of the app is accessible in the US and that if his kids were there, they could use it.
5. Why not mention Cambridge Analytica?
Chew typically avoided confrontation. He didn’t frequently return the fight to Congressmen. Yet there were a few instances when he did push back, and he did it successfully.
When quizzed on TikTok’s use of user data, he said: “With all due respect, American companies don’t have a great track record with data … Just look at Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.”
It was a biting remark, but it had a valid point.
When news of the collection of Facebook users’ personal data by the British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica and other third-party apps broke in 2018, it sparked outrage.
(Adapted from BBC.com)
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