A Congressional appearance this past week by TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was widely viewed as a disaster for the company.

During the hearing, Chew confirmed what CNET and others have previously reported regarding the social media platform: it engages in capturing user keystrokes.

The admission came during an exchange between Chew and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA):

Miller-Meeks: “Does TikTok track users’ individual keystrokes?” 

Chew: “Only for security purposes, for example, like detecting bots.”

Chew later tried to justify the TikTok surveillance and data collection by claiming that other companies—meaning American social media platform rivals—do much of the same thing.

A Breitbart piece covering the hearing had this to say about the possibility:

“Some might agree with Chew’s suggestion that U.S. social media companies engage in the same behavior as TikTok, but the difference is that U.S. companies can be held responsible under U.S. laws, whether that takes the form of action by Congress or regulators, whereas the same is not possible with TikTok.”

(“Mariannette Miller-Meeks Forces TikTok CEO to Admit Chinese App Tracks Americans’ Keystrokes” 23 Mar 2023.)

If American companies are collecting keystrokes of Americans, forget any consolation about being responsible to the U.S. government.

It would be a level of domestic surveillance deserving of outrage, investigation and prosecution.

Gov-Tech Surveillance, One Way Or Another

In August 2022, a CNET article, “TikTok’s In-App Browser Can Monitor Your Keystrokes, Researcher Says,” reported that a Vienna based researcher found TikTok, but not other popular social media platforms, was engaging in keystroke surveillance.

According to CNET, via its in-app web browser, TikTok could utilize keystroke monitoring to obtain private user data, including passwords, credit card details, and a lot more. 

At that time, TikTok denied the claims of researcher Felix Krause, issuing a statement that said:

“Contrary to the report’s claims, we do not collect keystroke or text inputs through this code, which is solely used for debugging, troubleshooting and performance monitoring.”

Krause also tested other platforms with iPhone in-app browsers, including Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, Amazon and Robinhood. 

The researcher reported that TikTok was the only one that appeared to monitor keystrokes.

While that may provide some reassurance to Americans who don’t use TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company, Chew’s comments to the effect of “we all do it” deserves close consideration.

Many pundits saw his admission regarding the issue as a huge blunder, considering that Congress is considering banning the app.

But if Chew was being truthful concerning his own company, is it possible he was also correct in outing American companies for similar practices?

The Twitter Files and the Missouri vs. Biden court case have conclusively shown that American companies are every bit as beholden and connected to the U.S. government as TikTok and its parent company ByteDance are to the CCP.

This past week, emails uncovered via discovery in the Missouri vs. Biden showed that Biden administration Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty pressured Facebook parent company Meta to counter supposed COVID misinformation in private messages on its Whatsapp messaging app.

Flaherty at one point insisted WhatsApp had to have a “good mousetrap” to surveil encrypted messages, Fox News reported. (“Biden White House urged Meta to crack down on ‘vaccine-skeptical’ content on WhatsApp private chat platform,” 24 Mar 2023.)

Flaherty repeatedly engaged with WhatsApp employees, directing them to use any technical means at their disposal to suppress “vaccine hesitancy” and promote government COVID narratives.

Employees assured Faherty at one point that some 3 billion COVID-related messages carrying desired narratives were transmitted to users via the app by “governments, nonprofits and international organizations.”

This latest smoking gun is yet more confirmation that the scope of by-proxy U.S. government surveillance and propaganda knows no bounds at this point.

Chew’s statements to Congress hopefully will draw further scrutiny, questioning and research into the surveillance activities of American companies, as well as Chinese ones.

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