Gottheimer announces federal action against Chinese-owned TikTok
NEW JERSEY — U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer Monday joined with New Jersey’s cybersecurity agency to sound the alarm on the threats TikTok and the Chinese Communist Party pose to the safety of our children, our data, and our national security.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has made it abundantly clear that it is willing to leverage technology to breach United States institutions, steal our intellectual property, collect data on our children and all U.S. citizens, and access the systems that control our critical infrastructure. TikTok has more than 100 million monthly active users, collects far-reaching and sophisticated data from its users, including usernames, passwords, personally identifiable information, pictures, and videos of millions of Americans.
The U.S. military, federal government, and many state governments, including New Jersey, have banned TikTok on government-issued devices.
TikTok and the Chinese government are a threat to America’s national security and children:
- China-based employees of TikTok have repeatedly accessed non-public data about American TikTok users.
- In 2019, the FTC fined TikTok for knowingly collecting the names, email addresses, pictures, and locations of children under the age of 13 without parental consent.
- In 2022, TikTok agreed to a class-action settlement for harvesting U.S. personal data from users without their consent.
- In 2022, TikTok confirmed that China-based employees could gain remote access to Americans’ data, including public videos and comments.
- Chinese law obligates TikTok’s parent company to “support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work.”
- TikTok’s extreme prevalence in America has given the Chinese government unfettered access and information to our children and Americans.
- Studies show that TikTok’s addictive qualities may have a negative impact on children’s mental health. The algorithm is designed to keep users engaged longer, and studies show the more kids and teens spend on social media, the more likely they will be depressed.
- A Fifth District 13-year-old girl recently had her TikTok account hacked, and changed from private to public — exposing her identity, pictures, and videos. The hacker changed her password and she was completely locked out of the account. Gottheimer’s team was able to contact TikTok to get the account deleted.
- China is America’s biggest global threat and it has made clear its willingness to use cyberwarfare and surveillance tactics to breach U.S. institutions.
- A Chinese state-sponsored hacking group successfully compromised the computer networks of at least six U.S. state governments between May 2021 and February this year.
Gottheimer’s actions to combat the threat of Chinese-owned TikTok:
- Gottheimer is pushing for legislation that would grant the President the power to ban TikTok in the United States, or force the sale of its U.S. operations to an American company — if the President believes there is continued data collection and a clear threat to our national security.
- Gottheimer is writing to TikTok, once again demanding that they immediately cease all data collection of personally identifiable information on American citizens, beginning with our children.
Last year, Gottheimer and his Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chair Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick wrote a letter to the CEO of TikTok questioning their child data privacy policies and data uses. In response, TikTok made no commitment to protect our country and our children.
“It’s time we gave the President the tools to fight back against TikTok’s information invasion against America’s families. In the wrong hands, this data is an enormous asset to the Chinese Communist Party — a known adversary — and their malign activities. In fact, Chinese law obligates TikTok’s parent company to, and I quote, ‘support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work.’ So TikTok is basically bought and paid for by the Chinese government.” said Gottheimer (NJ-5), a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “Today, I’m taking two concrete steps to battle TikTok’s assault on our children’s privacy. Last July, I wrote a letter to the CEO of TikTok questioning their child data privacy policies. Their response was stunning, inadequate, unproductive, and frankly insulting, to say the least. They made no commitment to protect both our country and our children. They admitted that they collect data on children, including IP addresses and other device information.”
“I do want to thank the Congressman for his leadership on addressing the security issues that TikTok and other national security threats involving technology bring to us here in New Jersey and the United States as a whole,” said Director of the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell & New Jersey’s Chief Information Security Officer Michael Geraghty. “We see this as an ongoing threat that the Congressman is addressing here.”