TikTok isn't the only China-backed app the White House is worried about

TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, is hugely popular in the US, especially among teens. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - The Biden administration is working with lawmakers to find ways to prevent data gathered by various Chinese social-media apps threatening national security, President Joe Biden’s commerce chief said.

“What we’re worried about is Chinese-backed companies being on tens of millions of American phones, including members of the military; and privacy concerns, data concerns, misinformation concerns, don’t just apply to Tiktok,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said, in interview at Bloomberg’s Washington office on Thursday. 

“There are a number of members in the US Senate who are thinking hard about what’s the right way to protect American national security,” she said.

“We will work with Congress to figure out the right way to legislate, to protect America from these concerns.”

Legislation authorising President Joe Biden to ban TikTok in the US advanced through a key House committee on Wednesday, as lawmakers debate the best way to address the national security threat they say is posed by the video-sharing app.

The Bill, from House Foreign Affairs chairman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, was one of several China-focused measures the panel considered this week, and it won approval on a party-line 24-16 vote.

Ms Raimondo said in an interview last month that “passing a law to ban a single company is not the way to deal with this issue,” citing concerns about freedom of speech and the app’s popularity with young voters.

TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, is hugely popular in the US, especially among teens. But US officials say there is a potential security threat if the app is used for propaganda or if the Chinese government uses collected data to create profiles of Americans.

President Donald Trump in 2020 sought to ban US residents from doing business with TikTok or WeChat, an instant messaging and social media app, but those orders were blocked by federal judges who said the administration had not shown those apps in particular posed a national security threat justifying a ban.

Mr Biden revoked the bans in 2021, instead directing the Commerce Department to review and take action against software applications that pose a risk to Americans’ sensitive data. BLOOMBERG

Remote video URL

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.