By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Republican Representative Mike Gallagher met with TikTok on Wednesday about the Chinese-owned short video app’s U.S. data security plans but still plans to seek to ban TikTok in the United States, a spokesperson for the lawmaker said.
Gallagher, the Republican chair of a U.S. House of Representatives select committee on China, met with TikTok officials led by TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas Michael Beckerman.
The lawmaker “appreciated their time but found their argument unpersuasive,” Gallagher spokesperson Jordan Dunn said.
Gallagher “still plans to introduce his legislation with Rep. (Raja) Krishnamoorthi in the coming weeks,” Dunn said.
Beckerman said in a statement to Reuters TikTok looks “forward to learning more about Rep. Gallagher’s specific concerns that are not addressed by this comprehensive plan.”
TikTok hopes to give Gallagher another briefing “as it was difficult to do a substantive deep dive on a national security proposal that has been in the works for two years during a single short meeting,” he added.
TikTok’s presentation “Protecting U.S. National Security Interests” – which has been viewed by Reuters – offers a detailed look at the app’s efforts to demonstrate the data security for TikTok’s more than 100 million U.S. users.
The U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a powerful national security body, in 2020 ordered Chinese company ByteDance to divest TikTok because of fears that user data could be passed onto China’s government.
CFIUS and TikTok have been in talks for more than two years aiming to reach a national security agreement.
Reuters first reported in December that TikTok had adopted several measures aimed at addressing U.S. government concerns, including an agreement for Oracle Corp to store data of the app’s U.S. users and a United States Data Security division to oversee data protection and content moderation decisions.
TikTok has spent $1.5 billion on hiring and reorganization costs to build up the TikTok U.S. Data Security (USDS) unit, Reuters also reported.
TikTok personnel in the unit will be vetted and the company governed by an independent board and its content systems overseen by CFIUS-approved third parties, the presentation said.
For three years, TikTok has been seeking to assure Washington that the personal data of U.S. citizens cannot be accessed and its content cannot be manipulated by China’s Communist Party or anyone else under Beijing’s influence.
On Monday, the company confirmed TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will appear before the U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee plans to hold a vote this month on a bill aimed at blocking the use of TikTok in the United States.
On Friday, the White House declined to comment on the CFIUS TikTok talks or whether it would support a ban on TikTok.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Hogue and Christopher Cushing)