Michael F. Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, cited national security, adding to bipartisan pressure on the Chinese-owned video app.
February 2, 2023
No company subject to “Chinese Communist Party dictates should have the power to accumulate such extensive data on the American people,” Senator Michael Bennet wrote.Credit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, called on Apple and Google Thursday to remove TikTok from their app stores because of national security concerns, as bipartisan pressure on the Chinese-owned company escalates.
Mr. Bennet, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent the chief executives of Apple and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, a letter saying no company subject to “Chinese Communist Party dictates should have the power to accumulate such extensive data on the American people or curate content to nearly a third of our population.”
TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese internet company ByteDance, has faced questions about its data practices and whether it is transmitting information about Americans collected from its app to the Chinese authorities.
“It’s irresponsible for us to make it available the way we have, and I hope that Apple and Google will take this as an opportunity to lead in this debate,” Mr. Bennet said in a phone interview.
His letter to Tim Cook of Apple and Sundar Pichai of Alphabet — the latest shot against TikTok in what has become a national frenzy among lawmakers — shows that Democrats are eagerly joining a campaign that was largely led by Republicans until recently. Mr. Bennet’s call harks back to the Trump administration’s effort to bar TikTok and WeChat, another Chinese-owned app, from U.S. app stores in September 2020, a move that met legal resistance and ultimately failed.
Lawmakers and regulators have increasingly criticized TikTok as it waits for the Biden administration to respond to the company’s plan, submitted in August, detailing how it will prevent the Chinese government from having access to data on U.S. users, and how it will offer the U.S. government oversight of the platform.
Brooke Oberwetter, a spokeswoman for TikTok, said the letter relied on “misleading reporting about TikTok, the data we collect and our data security controls.” She added that it also ignored the company’s substantial investment in its plan, known as Project Texas, “to provide additional assurances to our community about their data security and the integrity of the TikTok platform.”
Google and Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
More than two dozen states, including several led by Democratic governors, have banned TikTok in some fashion in the past two months. A bipartisan bill that was introduced in Congress in December would ban the app for everyone in the United States. Some college campuses and cities have also adopted bans.
Lawmakers have expressed concern about a Chinese media law that allows the government to secretly demand data from Chinese companies and citizens and TikTok’s content recommendation system.
TikTok has said its plan will “meaningfully address any security concerns that have been raised at both the federal and state level.” Shou Zi Chew, TikTok’s chief executive, has agreed to appear before a House committee in March.