Cassidy launches investigation into Chinese-owned tutoring service with DOD contract - Washington Examiner (2024)

EXCLUSIVE — Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has launched an investigation into a Chinese-owned tutoring service that has contracts with schools across the United States and the Pentagon., which is owned by the Chinese investment firm Primavera Capital Group, provides services to the Department of Defense and has contracts with local school districts and libraries in at least 25 U.S. states. PCG also has ownership stakes in TikTok and its developer, ByteDance.

The service’s Chinese ownership raises further questions about foreign interference in the U.S. education system and the threat posed to “students’ online safety and privacy,” Cassidy argued in a letter obtained exclusively by the Washington Examiner.

In the letter, addressed to the Princeton Review and CEO Joshua Hyoung-Jun Park, Cassidy also raised concerns about’s privacy policy, which states it collects user data including names, addresses, IP addresses, and tutor session recordings. The Princeton Review is a subsidiary of Primavera that owns

“These contractual arrangements, some of which are funded by federal taxpayer dollars, raise highly significant student data privacy concerns because Chinese law requires companies based in China to ‘support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work,’ meaning that a company can be compelled to share information with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) if asked to do so,”Cassidy, ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, wrote. “Since these matters concern students’ online safety and privacy, the stakes could not be higher.”

The risk posed to Americans and their data is highlighted by accusations that ByteDance employees have improperly accessed user data, the letter continues. Cassidy claimed that because TikTok “maliciously” uses its algorithm to influence children, all companies connected to ByteDance should be scrutinized.

A representative of told the Washington Examiner that all of the company’s data is housed in the United States and is not accessible by Primavera, the Chinese investment firm.

Cassidy pointed to two major school districts with large military populations in the area that have contracts with, arguing the children of service members could be targeted for data collection from the website, especially since “information on the students and their families could be of strategic
value to the [Chinese Communist Party] and therefore pose risks not only to student privacy but also our national security.”

According to the letter, Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, California, is close to America’s second-largest Air Force base, with over 10,000 military and related personnel. Similarly, the San Antonio Independent School District, near Joint Base San Antonio, is the home of 70,000 service members. operates online recorded sessions between tutors and students that the company retains, it says, to ensure the quality of the product. The privacy policy says it collects information including parent addresses, educational and employment backgrounds, transcripts, college application information, and third-party browser information.

Cassidy is seeking more clarity about’s data and privacy practices, setting a deadline of June 5 to comply with the request.

Despite the website stating it abides by applicable U.S. laws and “voluntarily initiated a rigorous federal review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to ensure that stringent safeguards would be put in place to protect customer and student data,” Cassidy noted the scope and findings of the review are not publicly available. The Louisiana Republican also said the responsibilities of’s data security officer are also not publicly available.


“Veiled assurances are not enough. TikTok similarly assured Congress and the American people that its parent company, ByteDance, is a ‘private company’ and ‘commit[ed] to be free of all and any government manipulation,'” Cassidy wrote. “Yet, in a recent court filing, TikTok and ByteDance stated that ‘the Chinese government … made it clear that it would not permit a divestment of the recommendation engine that is a key to the success of TikTok in the United States.'”

The tutoring company said it closely protects the user information it collects.

“, an American company, employs extensivesafeguards and enforcement mechanismsto ensure that U.S. students’ data cannot and will not, under any circ*mstances, ever be shared with China or any foreign entity,”Tutor.comtold the Washington Examiner, noting many of the data privacy and transparency protocols Cassidy said it claimed. “We want to be clear: No personal information of U.S. students is shared with Primavera, and Primavera does not have—and may not obtain—access’s IT systems.”

Cassidy launches investigation into Chinese-owned tutoring service with DOD contract - Washington Examiner (2024)
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