TikTok’s legal fight intensifies with U.S. govt


ByteDance, TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company, is also a plaintiff in what could become one of the biggest legal battles in tech history…reports Asian Lite News

The popular video-sharing app TikTok disclosed a letter on Thursday accusing the Biden administration of “political demagoguery” during crucial negotiations aimed at addressing concerns about its presence in the U.S., media reported.

The letter, sent to David Newman, a senior official in the Justice Department’s national security division, was revealed in federal court alongside a legal brief supporting TikTok’s lawsuit against a potential ban, Associated Press reported.

ByteDance, TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company, is also a plaintiff in what could become one of the biggest legal battles in tech history, it was reported.

The documents detail negotiations between TikTok and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) from January 2021 to August 2022.

These talks led to a 90-page draft security agreement that would have imposed stringent safeguards on U.S. user data and included a “kill switch” to suspend the platform if it breached the agreement, AP reported.

However, TikTok’s attorneys claimed that substantive negotiations halted after the draft submission.

CFIUS did not comment, but the Justice Department is prepared to defend the legislation, citing national security concerns consistent with constitutional protections, it was reported.

The department emphasized the threat posed by autocratic nations that could exploit technology for espionage, particularly when companies are compelled to share data with their governments secretly.

Child privacy laws

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has referred a complaint against TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance to the Department of Justice, alleging that they failed to protect the privacy of children. 

The FTC said in a statement that it “uncovered reason to believe” TikTok and ByteDance are “violating or are about to violate” the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The regulator did not provide any further details of the alleged violations in its statement.

The FTC said that it does not typically make referrals of complaints public, but “determined that doing so here is in public interest.”

The FTC is responsible for consumer protection in the US and also plays an important role in its competition policy.

TikTok rejected the allegations in a statement on X, noting it had been in talks with the FTC for more than a year.

“We’re disappointed the agency is pursuing litigation instead of continuing to work with us on a reasonable solution,” it said.

TikTok also said that many of the FTC’s allegations related to past events and practices and were factually inaccurate or have been addressed.

In 2019, TikTok agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle FTC allegations against its predecessor company, Musical.ly, concerning the collection of data from children under the age of 13 without parental consent, in violation of US law.

According to the FTC, the current investigation into TikTok and its Chinese-based parent company ByteDance began with an audit to determine whether the platform was complying with the terms of the previous agreement.

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