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The Head of a Significant House Committee Presses Shein on Data Security and Relations with China

The chair of the House’s Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is raising concerns about Shein’s data privacy practices and its relationship with the Chinese Communist Party as the fast-fashion company approaches a U.S. initial public offering (IPO). In a letter to Shein, McMorris Rodgers, along with Rep. Gus Bilirakis, inquired about the user data collected by Shein and its communications with the Chinese government. The letter is part of a broader inquiry into Chinese-owned e-commerce platforms like TikTok, Temu, and Alibaba.

The letter addresses the growing popularity of Chinese-owned e-commerce platforms in the Western world and expresses concerns about potential risks to e-commerce, consumer safety, and data privacy. While Shein has faced scrutiny regarding the use of forced labor in its supply chain, this letter is unique in its focus on data privacy issues.

Specifically, the letter asks Shein about its data protection practices with third-party vendors, whether it collects biometric, genetic, and other health data from users, and whether it gathers information on consumers’ religious and political beliefs. Additionally, the lawmakers inquire about Shein’s stance on the reported genocide in China’s Xinjiang region and whether its supply chain is free of forced labor.

Earlier this year, Shein stated that U.S. data is stored within Microsoft and Amazon’s cloud services in data centers located within the United States. However, concerns persist among lawmakers about the potential for U.S. consumer data to be accessed by the Chinese government, given Shein’s significant supply chain presence in the region.

The letter cites past violations by Chinese-owned applications like TikTok in protecting user data and highlights China’s laws requiring tech companies to allow access to user data by Chinese Communist Party officials. The lawmakers emphasize the need for scrutiny given China’s record of accessing Americans’ information, challenging claims of data security.

Shein has responded by acknowledging receipt of the committee’s letter and expressing its intention to provide a response. The inquiry adds to the existing challenges facing Shein as it navigates concerns related to its IPO and compliance with U.S. regulations.

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