Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) on Monday sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas regarding security concerns that TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance pose to American citizens’ personal data. The letter requested details on TikTok’s use of H-1B guest workers who may have ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
In part, Senator Cotton wrote:
“In 2022 alone DHS has approved over 570 new and continuing H-1B visas for foreign individuals to work at ByteDance and TikTok’s offices in California. Given the security concerns with TikTok and the company’s repeated statements about “US-based” teams and data centers, having hundreds of foreign nationals working in those offices presents another potential threat.”
Full text of the letter may be found here and below.
The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
Dear Secretary Mayorkas:
I write regarding TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, and their use of H-1B guest worker visas for employees who might have ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). TikTok captures vast amounts of private information on users, including American citizens, and has long been suspected of providing the CCP with potential access to that information. This threatens the safety and security of American citizens, and also functions as an avenue for the Chinese government to track the locations of and develop blackmail on Federal employees and contractors.
In response to security and espionage concerns, TikTok claims that it stores “all TikTok US user data in the United States,” and that its “data centers are located entirely outside of China.” In a Senate hearing, TikTok’s vice president added that TikTok has a “US-based security team that handles access to user data.” However, recent public reports indicate that sensitive data on American users of TikTok has been accessed from within China, that Beijing-based employees of ByteDance have targeted specific American users for surveillance, and that at least 300 TikTok and ByteDance employees are also current or former employees of Chinese state media.
In 2022 alone, DHS has approved over 570 new and continuing H-1B visas for foreign individuals to work at ByteDance and TikTok’s offices in California. Given the security concerns with TikTok and the company’s repeated statements about “US-based” teams and data centers, having hundreds of foreign nationals working in those offices presents another potential threat. For each H-1B application sponsored by ByteDance or TikTok in 2022, please provide a list of the nationalities and job titles of each applicant employee no later than 5:00PM on Tuesday, November 15.
I look forward to your prompt response.
United States Senator