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Cotton Says TikTok Possibly Employing Hundreds of Foreign Workers With Ties to CCP

Republican lawmaker calls on Biden admin to release info on guest workers at social media company's California offices

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) / Getty Images
• November 14, 2022 2:20 pm

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Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) called on the Biden administration to release information about the hundreds of foreign employees working in TikTok's U.S. offices, raising alarm that many of the social media company's guest workers could have ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

In a letter Monday to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Cotton said DHS approved more than 570 H-1B visas for foreign nationals to work in Chinese parent company ByteDance's California offices, where they can access sensitive data about U.S. users.

"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," Cotton said. "Given the security concerns with TikTok and the company's repeated statements about ‘U.S.-based' teams and data centers, having hundreds of foreign nationals working in those offices presents another potential threat."

The letter comes as Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) call for the video app to be banned in the United States, arguing that TikTok allows the Chinese government to track and surveil Americans. The app has one billion monthly active users and is the most downloaded app in the United States.

Cotton noted that although company executives say U.S. data are stored "entirely outside" of China, foreign nationals with ties to the CCP could access the information in the U.S. offices.

"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," the lawmaker wrote.

Cotton requested a list of each sponsored employee, including names and company titles, by Nov. 15.