Missouri Senator Hawley warns parents about social media app TikTok’s link to China

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WASHINGTON D.C. — Federal officials are investigating popular social media video app TikTok, which is accused of exposing millions of Americans’ private data to foreign intrusion.

At a Tuesday hearing, the Chinese-owned social media platform was blasted by lawmakers, including well-known big tech skeptic Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

“Parents, if you don’t know what TikTok is, you should,” he said. “A company compromised by the Chinese Community Party knows where your children are, knows what they look like, what their voices sound like. … It’s a threat to our national security.”

TikTok officials declined to appear at the hearing. They have insisted American data is safely secured in the U.S.

Hawley said he doesn’t buy it.

“All it takes is one knock on the door of their parent company, based in China, from a Communist Party official for that data to be transferred,” he said.

Cybersecurity experts like Kara Fredrick with the Center for a New American Security agree there is a threat.

“That is a problem. That is something we need to think about,” she told lawmakers.

While Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said the U.S. should work with other nations to develop security solutions, he doesn’t think China can be trusted.

“It’s a little bit like bringing a couple of burglars into a productive discussion on home security,” he said.

However, Tom Burt of Microsoft said Congress can and should work with all governments to stop growing cyberwarfare threats.

“It’s absolutely a pursuit government should still engage in, Sen. Whitehouse,” he said.

The federal government is investigating TikTok’s relationship with Beijing. Hawley is demanding the tech group testify under oath.

Apple was also asked to appear at Tuesday’s hearing. Hawley said it, too, has opened the door for Chinese cyber attacks. Officials with the company said they got the invite on too short notice.

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