Apple and TikTok have reportedly denied testifying at a congressional hearing in March concerning their ties and relationship with China. Their move is being observed as a threat to bring up tensions with the US federal lawmakers who believe that Beijing is both a privacy and a security threat.
The two tech giants were invited to appear at the March 4th session by one of TikTok’s leading critics, Republican Senator Josh Hawley (Mo.) as confirmed by his office on Monday. Surprisingly, both the firms Apple and TikTok which had declined to testify at a hearing last year as well regarding the same concerns, once again turned their back.
It s being said that Apple and TikTok’s decision to opt-out of the upcoming hearing might just bring down upon them a verbal lashing on Capitol Hill. The Chairman of a key Senate Subcommittee, Hawley has previously upbraided Apple and TikTok for refusing to answer questions about their ties to China.
The Republican senator, last year, specifically called out Apple at his hearing over storing the user data of Chinese locally in accordance with government rules. Hawley believes that given Beijing’s stronghold over their surveillance powers, the move certain threatens the security of the customers of Apple, even though Apple has repeatedly stressed that they haven’t built any backdoors in their products for that to happen.
Hawley was assured by TikTok that they would dispatch a top aide from their company to appear at a later date which remains unspecified to answer to his question, as confirmed by TikTok on Monday. They explained their reason for absence by citing their recent raft of new hires at senior ranks of the company. Apple hasn’t yet reached back with a proper reason explaining the cause of their absence.
In the case of TikTok, various regulators, lawmakers and Hawley have been harsh critics of their parent China-based company ByteDance. TikTok and ByteDance have gone to huge lengths repeatedly to convince lawmakers that their operation is in no way controlled by Beijing which heavily censors online content. However, it seems they still need to keep on fighting to get themselves heard for real.
Even though Apple and TikTok have backed out, the plans to hold the March hearing are still in motion by Hawley as U.S law enforcement officials are expected to testify according to his office.
TikTok Gears Up To Fight Back
Lately, the appetite for getting more answers have grown in a huge way amid some lawmakers. Many of these lawmakers are the ones who happen to be very sceptical of China and see Beijing as a threat to free speech and online privacy and security.
The worst of the wrath of these lawmakers have been observed by the company ByteDance which owns TikTok. They have drawn a huge chunk of attention from all the U.S. regulators and lawmakers over their country of origin.
Service members of several branches of the U.S. military force have been asked to not use the TikTok app on their service phones which they use for official work. This move comes as a precautionary measure fearing the security risks involved as being preached by many lawmakers. Similarly, the Transportation Security Administration has also mentioned that they would be barring their employees from accessing the app after the security concerns raised by Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.
After going through so many roadblocks to clear their intentions related to transparency, TikTok has finally started taking huge steps to appease U.S. federal regulators regarding their privacy and security practices.
TikTok has reportedly relocated the oversights of their whole content-management team to the United States. In recent months, TikTok has also set their sights on Washington. They have hired their first lobbyists and a new top official who will be in charge of forging better relationships with various lawmakers. Alex Zhu, who is a top executive was previously thought of for the series of meeting with lawmakers. However, the trip was cancelled by TikTok as they reported it was due to unspecified scheduling issues.