Popular social media app TikTok is facing continued scrutiny, now over alleged mishandling of user data.
According to Gizmochina, U.S. senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn, are questioning how the company has been storing U.S. user’s sensitive data and who has access to it. The senators drafted 14 questions in a letter to TikTok’s CEO that they want answered by June 16.
The questions posed by the senators will cover a vast array of topics, including the storage of their users’ data, access given to China-based employees, further clarification on TikTok’s prior testimonies, and what measures are being taken to investigate data sharing among Chinese employees.
With a recent ban in the state of Montana, as well as similar proposed bills calling for a nationwide ban of TikTok, the social media company has been taking measures to address growing concerns. The Chinese-owned app has also been working with several partners, including Oracle, to review its technology and how it stores sensitive user data.
“A U.S. ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion-plus people who use our service worldwide. We’re disappointed to see this rushed piece of legislation move forward, despite its considerable negative impact on the free speech rights of millions of Americans who use and love TikTok,” TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said earlier this year in a prepared statement to TechCrunch.
TikTok is already betting big on its business here in the U.S., and even under continued scrutiny, the company is still continuing with its efforts, including making a bigger play in the e-commerce arena. Earlier this week, we covered TikTok’s plans to expand the size of its global e-commerce business—from the $4.4 billion in gross merchandise value the company reached last year to roughly $20 billion in merchandise sales this year.
According to Data.ai,TikTok had the highest app store spend in the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, and Indonesia in Q1 2023. Because the company has been attracting a wide breadth of users, it’s becoming a growing destination for both advertisers and merchants who get access to a massive audience.
If you look at TikTok’s sister app, Douyin, it has a business model that combines impulse buying with entertainment, cementing its place as a key e-commerce player in China and competing head-to-head with Amazon and Shopee. TikTok has its sights to replicate this same business model in the U.S.
As social commerce continues to transform the relationship between businesses and the customers they serve, this could put TikTok at an advantage—that is, if efforts to bank TikTok in the U.S. don’t escalate.