TikTok’s chief executive faced intense questioning from House lawmakers on Thursday amid growing momentum on Capitol Hill to ban the app in the US — and “the day could not have gone any worse for TikTok,” said Brendan Carr, commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Carr said Friday on “CBS Mornings.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle spent hours denouncing TikTok’s data collection practices, painting it as a tool used by the Chinese government to track and spy on Americans.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew tried to reassure lawmakers that the app doesn’t pose a risk to its 150 million users, nor share user data with the Chinese Communist Party. He admitted that TikTok collected location data on US users in the past, and said some historical data is still stored in servers that could be accessed by engineers from ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company which is based in China.
Carr said “the most important thing” Chew had to do was “build some level of trust and credibility with Congress” and he “completely failed” to do that.
Like many other social media companies, TikTok collects users’ personal information, including phone numbers, email addresses, contacts and WiFi networks. ByteDance has said the company does not share information with the Chinese government, but US officials say Chinese law requires the company to make the app’s data available to the Chinese Communist Party.
The Justice Department is said to be investigating ByteDance for possible spying on US citizens.
Carr said there are still “a lot of issues and potential hurdles” to get any legislation banning the app passed, but added, “the trust is just bottoming out for TikTok.”
Carr has been leading and shaping opinion on a possible TikTok ban, although neither he nor the FCC — which oversees communication laws and regulations in the United States — have any direct control or regulatory power over the app.
In response to Chew’s testimony, Chinese leaders announced Friday that China has never, nor would it ever, ask any company for data or intelligence in foreign countries.
TikTok is already banned on federal government devices, as well as some state government devices. Federal lawmakers have introduced several bills that would empower the Biden administration to ban it nationwide.
Caitlin Yilek and Nicole Killion contributed to this article.