Miss. Senator Joins Letter Urging President Trump to Reject Deal That Would Give China Control of U.S. User Data

###

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today joined U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Rick Scott, R-Fla., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and John Cornyn, R-Texas, to outline significant concerns regarding reports that the U.S.-based technology company Oracle Corp. had confirmed a deal with the China-based ByteDance to become a “trusted technology provider” for the wildly popular social media app TikTok. The deal is the result of negotiations started by ByteDance after President Trump threatened to shut down TikTok’s U.S. operations unless the company severed the app’s ties with China and could guarantee the safety of U.S. user data.

“Any deal between an American company and ByteDance must ensure that TikTok’s U.S. operations, data, and algorithms are entirely outside the control of ByteDance or any Chinese-state directed actors, including any entity that can be compelled by Chinese law to turn over or access U.S. consumer data,” the senators wrote. “As reported, the proposed partnership agreement between Oracle and TikTok leaves significant unresolved national security issues, and we expect the Administration to keep Congress fully informed as you evaluate this potential agreement.”

In August, Wicker lent his support to the divestment of TikTok’s U.S. operations and a purchase by a U.S. company, saying it “would be a win for U.S. consumers.” He also said “tight security measures need to be part of any deal in order to protect consumer data and ensure no foreign access.”

Wicker is the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the internet and consumer data protection policies in the United States.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Mr. President:

The potential status of Oracle as a “trusted technology provider” to ByteDance raises a number of significant concerns. According to some reports, Oracle would merely assume a management role of TikTok’s U.S. data and possibly acquire only a stake in the company’s American operations. This arrangement could violate the requirements set about in the August 6, 2020 Executive Order on Addressing the Threat Posed by TikTok and would do little to satisfy the range of concerns expressed in that order.

The Executive order is a clear-eyed directive that highlights the data security, corporate espionage, and censorship hazards posed by TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. Furthermore, the order prohibits any transactions between U.S. citizens and ByteDance after a 45-day deadline.

On September 13, 2020, Oracle Corp. confirmed a deal with ByteDance to become a “trusted technology provider” for TikTok’s U.S. operations. As this deal appears to fall short of a full acquisition, serious questions remain with regard to Oracle’s role in TikTok’s U.S. operations, the type of technology Oracle will be providing ByteDance, and the question of what will happen to the crucial algorithms, which make the application function. In particular, we remain opposed to any deal that would allow China-based or controlled entities to retain, control or modify the code or algorithms that operate any U.S.-based version of TikTok. We are heartened that this deal still requires government approval, and if reports indicating this proposed deal will retain links to ByteDance or other Chinese-controlled entities, we strongly urge the Administration to reject such a proposal on national security grounds.

The Trump Administration has been clear that any proposal must fully protect the data of American citizens and represents a full break with any Chinese-based corporation, which could potentially be influenced by the Chinese Communist Party. A partial sale, or trusted partnership deal, is insufficient in achieving the goals of protecting Americans and U.S. interests from the severe risks detailed in the Executive order.

Any deal between an American company and ByteDance must ensure that TikTok’s U.S. operations, data, and algorithms are entirely outside the control of ByteDance or any Chinese-state directed actors, including any entity that can be compelled by Chinese law to turn over or access U.S. consumer data. As reported, the proposed partnership agreement between Oracle and TikTok leaves significant unresolved national security issues, and we expect the Administration to keep Congress fully informed as you evaluate this potential agreement.

We appreciate your attention to this critical matter and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

###

Release from Senator Roger Wicker.