Highlights From TikTok CEO Chew Shou Zi’s 4-Hour Grilling By US Congress
On Thursday (23 Mar), Congress grilled TikTok CEO Chew Shou Zi on various aspects.
The Singaporean CEO not only survived but also managed to thrive and keep a straight face even when asked the most basic of questions.
His composure has won him a legion of fans online, both Singaporean and non-Singaporean alike.
Here are 6 of these moments from the session.
1. How does WiFi work
Perhaps in a bid to cover every base over whether TikTok is a national security threat, Republican Congressman Richard Hudson asked, “Does TikTok access the home WiFi network?”
After a confused second processing the question, Mr Chew replied, “Only if the user turns on the WiFi.”
Congressman Hudson then followed his query by asking if TikTok would “access other devices on [a home] WiFi network”.
“Congressman, we do not do anything that is beyond industry norms,” Mr Chew said, indicating that the answer is likely a “no”.
2. He’s Singaporean
Mr Chew was responding to a question from Texas congressman Dan Crenshaw regarding whether “TikTok employees in China” like Mr Chew have to comply with a Chinese intelligence law.
“Congressman, first, I’m Singaporean.”
3. Chew Shou Zi’s children aren’t on TikTok
According to the TikTok CEO himself, his children do not use TikTok as they’re not old enough to meet the age limit for the app.
“My kids live in Singapore, and they do not have the under-13 experience. If they lived here in the United States, I would let them use the under-13 experience.”
In the US, kids get a special restricted version of TikTok, which isn’t available in other regions.
Asked about the reason that TikTok doesn’t have the same mechanism elsewhere, Mr Chew said, “In principle, we want to provide a good experience for users in general. We don’t want to monetise from people who are under 13.”
4. American social companies don’t have a good social record with data privacy
Asked about what TikTok does with user data, Mr Chew fired back with a shot that’ll have you grinning.
“With a lot of respect, American social companies don’t have a good track record with data privacy and user security — I mean, look at Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.”
Cambridge Analytica had harvested millions of users’ data from Facebook, prompting Congress to grill Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over user data security.
5. Refer to his opening statement
In response to Minnesota congresswoman Angela Craig’s question, “How is it that you can convince us that our privacy is not at risk and more than that our kids’ privacy is not at risk in this country?” Mr Chew simply responded, “In my opening statement.”
A mic-drop moment, if we have ever seen one.
6. Why do we need to know where eyes are
Mr Chew said TikTok does not collect body, face, or voice data to identify users.
However, it does want to know where your eyes are so that it can give you filters like sunglasses. The data is stored locally and deleted later, he said.
Then, someone asked, “Why do you need to know where the eyes are, if you’re not seeing if they’re dilated?” in response.
Given Mr Chew had just explained, the question appears to suggest some hidden motive for tracking where eyes are.
Somewhat confused, Congressman Earl “Buddy” Carter then asked how TikTok determines users’ age.
Age gating, according to Mr Chew. TikTok also goes through a user’s public posts to determine if they’re the age they stated.
Apparently, the latter is “creepy” to the congressman.
Taking popularity in stride
After Mr Chew survived the four-hour grilling session in Congress, he posted a video on the TikTok channel, reiterating his promises.
Our CEO Shou shares his thoughts about the recent congressional hearing and everything TikTok is doing to make it a safe place to connect, create, share and learn.
They include safety, especially for teenagers, as a top priority and protecting data from unauthorised foreign access.
But we get the feeling many people watched the video for Daddy TikTok instead.
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Featured image adapted from Reddit.
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