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TikTok: Technology Overview and Issues

CRS report via LC – TikTok: Technology Overview and Issues, Updated September 29, 2020:” TikTok is a globally popular video-sharing smartphone application (app) owned by ByteDance Ltd., a privately held company headquartered in Beijing, China. It is under increasing scrutiny by the U.S. government as a potential privacy and security risk to U.S. citizens. This is because ByteDance, like all technology companies doing business in China,is subject to Chinese laws that require companies operating in the country to turn over user data when asked to by the government. Researchers differ over how TikTok’s collection of user data compares with other social media apps and whether TikTok poses a unique threat to the privacy and security of its U.S. users…Some believe TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps pose a serious security risk to the United States because Chinese companies are subject to China’s laws that require compliance with government requests for data. Others believe that TikTok has fallen into “the crosshairs of a global technology battle” based on technology trade protectionism (this concept, also called “techno-nationalism,” refers to a country’s refusal or reluctance to import other countries’ advanced technology, as well as to export, or to allow other nations to benefit from, its own advanced technology). Similar situations may arise in the future with other apps created by foreign companies. Options that Congress may consider include (1) developing an overarching legal and regulatory framework to protect the security and privacy of U.S. citizens’ data and communications, and (2) developing a uniform, transparent process to assess and mediate risks posed by foreign apps.

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