The question that sent the head of the social network stumbling in the U.S. Congress
“Does TikTok have access to the home ‘wi-fi’?”, that was the question he asked that made TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew sweat during the U.S. Energy and Commerce Congress. As U.S. congressmen attempted to dispel doubts about possible uses of the app as an espionage tool by the Chinese government, Zi Chew has limited himself to giving ambiguous answers with a nervous attitude.
TikTok’s CEO has sought to convince the US country that the app is safe following threats by the United States to ban its use. On March 1, the White House reportedly gave a 30-day deadline to the federal companies to remove TikTok from official devices..
However, Zi Chew has shown a nervous attitude during his appearance and hesitated to answer questions from the congressmen. “Does TikTok have access to the homes’ wifi network?” he was asked pointedly. The CEO has been uneasy and excused himself by saying that he did not understand the question. Later, it was asked again and e Zi Chew stated that “if the user turns on WiFi…. the application will have access to the network to connect to the internet”.
The CEO used the question to refer to legality issues, “Sir, we don’t do anything that exceeds industry standards, he said. However, the answer has not been emphatic. “It could be something technical, let me get back to you later“, he added later.
Congressman Robert E. Latta then intervened: “Do Chinese employees and engineers have access to U.S. user data?” he asked. To which Zi Chew, again in a nervous attitude, replied that “the question is complex, currently. all the information is registered“. TikTok’s CEO has attempted to evade the question on as many as three occasions.
The congressman, visibly angry at Zi Chew’s evasions, has quickly changed his tone of voice. Latta has referred to the CEO in a forceful manner for the last time:”The question is clear, yes or no.”. The CEO, under pressure, has finally answered: “No, the answer is no”.
From China they have stated that “they have never asked and will never ask” the platform to violate local privacy laws in order to provide them with information. However, there are already at least a dozen countries that have had the app uninstalled from official devices in order to ensure security from possible Chinese government meddling.