At a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing, the CEO of the Chinese company TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, admitted that the app is tracking American users keystrokes.
Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) asked the question directly.
"Does TikTok track users' individual keystrokes?"
"Only for security purposes, for example like detecting bots." When asked to clarify, Chew said, "the only purpose that you would monitor keystrokes is for security purposes. I can get back to you on the specifics."
Former Under Secretary of State Keith Krach warned about the app being able to track keystrokes and has called for a total ban:
"That means they have access to your passwords, all your data, they have access to your health records, your bank records, they have access to your geopolitical information or your geospatial information," he said. "That means that they can track where you are, where you've been, and where you're going."
"But I think one of the things that's worse is that it's not just about you. It's about the people you digitally interact with," Krach added. "So, look at it as a digital virus, because it can infect the people around you. And the only cure for this; the only vaccine for this is a total ban."
He also said that in China, TikTok (Douyin) is used as an educational app for STEM classes, but in the U.S. the app is used to reward foolishness, sexual content, and dangerous (sometimes even deadly) trends.
The TikTok algorithms will take U.S. teens to videos promoting suicide within 10 minutes of use.
And yet, the spyware app has more than 150 million users in the U.S.
That means that 150 million people are having their every keystroke tracked by the Chinese government.
The U.S. is demanding that TikTok cut ties with its Chinese owner ByteDance, and sell to an American tech firm.
"We see a 3-6 month period ahead for ByteDance and TikTok to work out a sale to a US tech player with a spin-off less likely and extremely complex to pull off," Dan Ives, analyst at Wedbush Securities, said in a note.
"If ByteDance fights against this forced sale, TikTok will likely be banned in the US by late 2023."
However, Beijing strongly opposes the sale, saying it would violate the Chinese law on tech exports for national security concerns, which begs the question.