In brief: The explosive growth enjoyed by Chinese social media app TikTok has raised the alarm bells of US officials, who believe the app needs to be investigated for possible ties to the Chinese government as well as its potential to be used for disinformation campaigns.
Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator Tom Cotton have asked US intelligence officials to look into TikTok, a Chinese social media app that has seen a surge in popularity as of late, particularly among teenagers.
The two senior senators sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, in which they express their concerns with regards to TikTok's data collection practices and censorship rules. After all, leaked documents show that ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, limits the visibility and even removes content that isn't favorable to the Chinese government.
ByteDance claims its app has over 700 million daily users worldwide, and is estimated has been downloaded over 110 million times in the US alone. That has the two senators worried that TikTok may pose "national security risks," so they want to know if the app applies the same restrictive policies to US users as it does in China.
When Schumer and Cotton looked at TikTok's terms of service, they also found the app was collecting a lot of personal information on its users, including their location. While the company says that data is stored in the US, lawmakers want to know exactly how it's used.
As we inch closer to the 2020 election, they're worried it could easily become a "potential target of foreign influence campaigns like those carried out during the 2016 election on U.S.-based social media platforms." Schumer also has Russian apps in his sights. Earlier this year he expressed similar concerns that FaceApp, an app used to photo-edit users' faces, could misuse the data it stores even if it's not transferred to Russia.