With the Biden administration intensifying its threats against TikTok, the company is bracing itself for its CEO’s first appearance before Congress. The government’s recent actions, including those from federal law enforcement agencies and lawmakers, suggest that TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew could face a challenging time under the spotlight of the government’s scrutiny.

Chew has provided opening statements before the hearing, reassuring the public that the company is committed to protecting minors, enhancing privacy and security measures, and preventing any unauthorized foreign access to U.S. user data. Chew also addressed concerns about the company’s Chinese ownership and possible sharing of information with the Chinese government.

Chew stressed that these concerns were unfounded, stating that TikTok’s corporate structure does not make it answerable to the Chinese government or permit sharing of U.S. user information with it.

In a recent hearing, TikTok’s US General Manager, Vanessa Pappas Chew, made a strong statement that the company has never shared data on US users with the Chinese government and would not comply if China ever requested access to such data. Chew also emphasized that ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, is not an agent of China or any other country.

Chew’s statement comes as TikTok now boasts over 150 million users in the US, highlighting its significant influence on Americans. However, this milestone also raises concerns about the potential negative impact of a US ban, as evidenced by a protest organized by some TikTok creators in Washington, DC.

The hearing, scheduled for March 23, is titled “TikTok: How Congress Can Safeguard American Data Privacy and Protect Children from Online Harms,” and will address various criticisms of the company. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are expected to raise concerns, ranging from national security to the impact of the app on young users’ mental health.

According to Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Americans should know how TikTok’s relationship with China jeopardizes their privacy and manipulates their data. She further added that TikTok and other Big Tech companies use harmful algorithms to exploit children for profit, exposing them to dangerous online content.

The committee’s leadership also intends to question Chew about the measures TikTok is taking to protect children on the app. This hearing is part of a larger effort to hold tech companies accountable for their negative impact on society. Lawmakers are particularly concerned that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in China and could be used by the Chinese government to advance state interests.

Although there is no evidence that China is harvesting data or intentionally influencing political behavior through TikTok’s algorithms, there are concerns about the company’s privacy practices. Lawmakers may push for more transparency and accountability to ensure that Americans’ data is protected.

Last year, an internal inquiry at TikTok’s Beijing headquarters verified reports that employees intended to track U.S. journalists via their TikTok activity to find the source of internal leaks. The incident caused several federal agencies to launch investigations, as reported last week. The U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is collaborating with the FBI and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia to investigate the user privacy breach, putting TikTok’s precarious U.S. business under more pressure.

TikTok has consistently denied privacy concerns, stating that the app’s American operations are separated from its Beijing-based management and China. However, earlier this month, reports revealed that the U.S. government is seeking to make ByteDance sell TikTok, warning of a national ban if the company fails to comply.

TikTok has responded to the US government’s allegations of data privacy and national security risks by highlighting its “Project Texas” campaign to self-regulate. The campaign aims to show transparency in TikTok’s US operations and involves a $1.5 billion spending plan and corporate restructuring. TikTok hopes to build a firewall between its American business and Chinese ownership, which could help appease US regulators.

However, it is uncertain whether the US government will be satisfied with these efforts. The Trump administration made similar threats against TikTok, which failed to materialize, and the Biden administration has since picked up the issue. In 2020, TikTok rejected an acquisition offer from Microsoft and was ordered to sell its US operations to Oracle, which never materialized. Instead, TikTok partnered with Oracle to move US data onto US-based servers and to conduct audits of its content moderation systems.

The stakes for TikTok and its users are high, and the upcoming hearing is likely to be explosive, given politicians’ tendency to stir up anti-China sentiment. It remains to be seen whether the hearing will reveal any new information about TikTok’s past privacy lapses, but the company’s representative, Chew, will defend its right to continue doing business in the US.

What are your thoughts on TikTok’s upcoming Congressional appearance? Do you believe the social media platform will be able to address concerns about data privacy and security? Share you opinion in the comments below.