New Jersey Senator Corey Booker says the United States intelligence community is working with the Chinese social media platform TikTok to prevent the Chinese government from clandestinely surveilling the American public.
Booker, who is halfway through his current term, discussed the company’s cooperation during an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation on Feb. 5.
“I think there’s two ways to approach this one,” said Booker. “The proactive step of banning … on government devices is something that the United States federal government is doing, states and even localities are doing.”
“But the other way to go about this is going directly to the company. They are now working with U.S. intelligence folks to try to make sure that the proper precautions are taken so the Chinese cannot get access and use it for spying,” he added, per The Hill.
“This is something we have to take seriously,” said Booker. “It is an issue for American companies who have their secrets stolen. It is an issue that we have to have around our military.”
TikTok is owned by Beijing-based Byte Dance which has documented ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Under China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, all companies based in China are required to assist the government with intelligence work and turnover collected user data. TikTok collects a wide range of user information, including location, cell phone provider, and internet browsing history.
At least 23 state governors have banned using or downloading TikTok on state-issued devices due to concerns.
“It’s important for us to protect state information technology from foreign countries that have actively participated in cyberattacks against the United States,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper when he enacted a ban on the app via executive order in early January.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden Administration has never allowed TikTok on White House devices but would not definitively say if the app posed a threat to national security when pressed by reporters on Feb. 6.
“We have been clear about our concerns on apps like TikTok and so – look – we are focused on the challenges of certain countries, including China, seeking to leverage digital technologies and Americans’ data in ways that present … unacceptable national security risks,” she said. “I’m just not going to get ahead of it. There is a review currently happening. … We take it very seriously.”
.@BlakeBurman: "There's bipartisan calls…as it relates to TikTok….Does the administration believe [it] is a national security threat & does it believe [it] should be removed from phones?"
KJP insists the WH has "concerns" with China trying to "leverage…data" pic.twitter.com/MZXXGM9TRy
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) February 6, 2023
President Joe Biden ordered the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to review TikTok in June of 2021. TikTok Spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter says the app is cooperating with CFIUS, per The Hill.
Oberwetter has said the app’s user policy “clearly states [that] we collect ‘keystroke patterns or rhythms,’” which is “not the same as collecting the content of keystrokes.” She also said collecting helps TikTok detect spam.