Sen. Marco Rubio wants the Justice Department to investigate TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew for allegedly misleading Congress about where it kept Americans’ data.
The Florida Republican wants the department to examine whether Mr. Chew perjured himself when he told House lawmakers in March that Americans’ data was stored in the U.S. and Singapore instead of China.
Mr. Rubio said he knew Mr. Chew’s testimony to be false, pointing that out in a letter to Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on Wednesday requesting a federal investigation.
“Chew should be held accountable for making false statements about material facts related to TikTok’s operation, as he appears to have done in this case,” Mr. Rubio said in the letter. “I therefore request that you investigate whether Chew committed perjury when he falsely stated that TikTok has not stored the user data of Americans in China and urge you to be transparent with the American people about the threats posed by TikTok.”
TikTok said its leader did not lie.
“We remain confident in the accuracy of Shou’s testimony,” TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter said Thursday.
Mr. Rubio and other U.S. policymakers harbor concerns that Americans’ data on TikTok is vulnerable to China. They have raised questions about where people’s information is stored and how the app’s Chinese parent firm, ByteDance, has access to the data.
China’s policies of military-civil fusion force cooperation between businesses and the communist regime. Mr. Chew, however, has said China made no request for TikTok data and his company provided no data to the Chinese government.
As part of its push to avoid a ban of its app in the U.S., TikTok has made plans to overhaul its data storage.
Mr. Chew said last month that his company’s overhaul of its American operation, dubbed Project Texas, was well underway.
“Today by default all U.S. data is stored in the Oracle cloud servers already, in the Oracle cloud infrastructure and no longer in our own servers in Virginia and Singapore,” Mr. Chew said in May at the Qatar Economic Forum.
In response to reports indicating TikTok employees shared people’s personally identifiable information on an internal messaging tool made by ByteDance between 2019 and 2022, TikTok spokesman Alex Haurek said last month that has changed.
He said when Project Texas is finished, all communications involving U.S. user data will occur on a platform controlled by TikTok’s American team.
“Our effort to delete historical U.S. user-protected data is well underway and expected to be completed this year,” Mr. Haurek said in May.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.