House Republican-Led Investigation into TikTok Data Practices Highlights Concerns with Blurred Lines Between Private Entities and Government

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WASHINGTON—Two senior House Republicans announced a national security-focused investigation into TikTok today. Rep. James Comer (R-KY), ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, are asking TikTok parent company ByteDance for information related to reports that data generated by United States-based TikTok users is accessible by employees in China.

Director of CEI’s Center for Technology and Innovation Jessica Melugin said:

“CEI has long warned, ‘don’t be the government.’ This slogan underscores concerns with blurred lines between private actors and the public government. Different rules do and should apply to those two groups. When the line between them disintegrates, it’s best to assume the risks of the public sector are in play. For example, if a private tech company is obligated to turn over its user data to the government, the defense of free flow of information that would normally apply to the private firm must be abandoned in favor of a more wary stance.  Afterall, big tech companies may use or sell your data in ways you’d prefer they didn’t, but they can’t seize your property or imprison you. Also, you can choose not to deal with a private company. You’ll get so such option from the government. This general idea is only multiplied when the government in question is the Chinese Communist Party.”