Sen. Bill Cassidy Investigates Chinese-Owned Tutoring Service with DOD Contract

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EXCLUSIVE — Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has initiated an investigation into a Chinese-owned tutoring service that has contracts with schools across the U.S. and the Pentagon.

Tutor.com, owned by Chinese investment firm Primavera Capital Group, provides services to the Department of Defense and has agreements with local school districts and libraries in at least 25 U.S. states. Primavera Capital Group also has ownership stakes in TikTok and its developer, ByteDance.

The Chinese ownership of Tutor.com raises concerns about foreign interference in the U.S. education system and potential threats to students’ online safety and privacy, Cassidy argued in a letter obtained exclusively by the Truth Voices.

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

“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 underscored 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.

Cassidy pointed to two major school districts with substantial military populations that have contracts with Tutor.com, arguing the children of service members could be targeted for data collection, 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 home to 70,000 service members.

Tutor.com operates online recorded sessions between tutors and students, which the company retains to ensure product quality. The privacy policy states 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 Tutor.com’s data and privacy practices, with a compliance deadline set for June 5.

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 that the scope and findings of the review are not publicly available. The responsibilities of Tutor.com’s data security officer are also not publicly disclosed.

“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 key to the success of TikTok in the United States.’”

“Tutor.com, an American company, employs extensive safeguards and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that U.S. students’ data cannot and will not, under any circumstances, ever be shared with China or any foreign entity,” Tutor.com told the Truth Voices, 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 to Tutor.com’s IT systems.”

Breccan F. Thies
Breccan F. Thies
Investigative Reporter. He previously covered education and culture issues at Breitbart News. A Virginia native, Thies graduated from the University of Virginia in 2019, where he earned a degree in foreign affairs and minored in history.

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