Sen. Marco Rubio doesn’t like American Airlines’ new offer of in-flight TikTok. The Florida Republican sent a letter to American Airlines Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker on Thursday calling on the company to suspend its newly announced promotion offering free TikTok on flights.
“I write to express concerns over American Airlines new ‘innovative partnership’ with TikTok, which includes offering free, in-flight access to the Chinese-owned video-sharing app that is notorious for its collection of children’s personal information, including phone numbers, locations, and even biometric data,” Rubio wrote in the letter posted on his website.
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In the letter, Rubio referenced a national security review of TikTok the US government launched in 2019. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which reviews foreign acquisitions for potential national security risks, opened a review of the app and its parent company Bytedance’s purchase in 2017 of US company Musical.ly.
“By partnering with TikTok, American Airlines is now lending its brand credibility to a company that endangers national security and the data security of tens of millions of Americans, many of them minors,” Rubio wrote in the letter. “I urge you to suspend American Airlines’ ‘innovative partnership’ with TikTok while the US Government completes its investigation into the national security risks posed by the Chinese-owned app.”
TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
American Airlines said Monday that passengers traveling with the airline on Viasat-equipped narrowbody aircraft can now get 30 minutes of access to the app for free. In a statement to CNET Thursday, American Airlines said that the company does “not share any data with TikTok through this offering, nor do we have a direct commercial relationship with the company.”
“Based on customer feedback, connecting with family and friends through personal accounts on social media platforms while in flight is important to them,” the statement said. “With that in mind, we work with our Wi-Fi provider to offer customers more of what they want – a diverse variety of entertainment options, which currently includes TikTok.”
This isn’t the first time the senator has squared off against the China-based app. In 2019, after it was announced that software company Oracle had struck a deal with Bytedance to keep the video-sharing app in the US, Rubio and five other Republican senators wrote a letter to then President Donald Trump expressing concerns about the proposed deal.
“Any deal between an American company and ByteDance must ensure that TikTok’s US operations, data, and algorithms are entirely outside the control of ByteDance or any Chinese-state directed actors, including any entity that can be compelled by Chinese law to turn over or access US consumer data,” the letter says.
Since then, a preliminary deal to sell TikTok’s US operations to Oracle and retail company Walmart has been put on hold.