TikTok responded to a letter from Republican senators, sharing new particulars about its plans to guard US person information from ByteDance, its China-based guardian firm. The letter was prompted by a BuzzFeed Information investigation printed final month that confirmed how China-based ByteDance staff repeatedly accessed US person information by way of TikTok, regardless of repeated admissions that they’d no entry. .
In response to the 9 senators, obtained Per the New York Instances, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew mentioned the video-sharing platform shall be run from servers in Texas owned by Oracle, a Silicon Valley database big whose headquarters are in Austin. Its operations and algorithms, the letter says, can even be verified by a 3rd social gathering.
“We all know that we’re among the many most vetted platforms from a safety perspective, and we intention to take away any doubts concerning the safety of US person information,” Chew wrote.
Through the years, U.S. policymakers and lawmakers have scrutinized TikTok’s data-sharing and privateness practices by way of its hyperlinks to ByteDance. Questions on ByteDance’s degree of involvement in TikTok’s day-to-day operations and decision-making have lingered. In 2020, then-President Donald Trump threatened to ban the app, fearing the Chinese language Communist Social gathering was utilizing it to observe thousands and thousands of Individuals. Trump then provided a deal that may have required ByteDance to promote a part of TikTok to Oracle in an effort to function in the USA, although that plan by no means materialized. Final month, BuzzFeed Information printed a report primarily based on leaked audio from greater than 80 inner TikTok conferences that contained 14 statements from 9 completely different TikTok staff exhibiting that the corporate’s engineers in Beijing had accessed US customers’ information from TikTok as just lately as this 12 months.
BuzzFeed Information’ report sparked a brand new backlash in opposition to the corporate, prompting an FCC commissioner to jot down to the CEOs of Apple and Google asking them to take away TikTok from their app shops.
Within the letter, Chew acknowledges that ByteDance staff in China can entry US customers’ delicate info, noting, nonetheless, that this entry is managed by way of a US-based safety staff. Chew does not go into element about how selections are made about entry.
TikTok is at present negotiating with the Committee on Overseas Funding in the USA over what information ought to be thought of “protected”. Underneath the settlement, personal info, corresponding to cellphone numbers and birthdays, could be saved on servers in Texas owned by Oracle. However BuzzFeed Information’ investigation confirmed that public information, which incorporates individuals’s profiles, feedback and what they publish, won’t be included, which might present ByteDance’s Chinese language staff with large insights into what of curiosity to US TikTok customers and their media consumption habits, primarily based on the massive quantity of data that may very well be included within the “unprotected” information bucket.
TikTok staff world wide, together with these in China, would nonetheless have entry to this “restricted set of non-sensitive U.S. TikTok person information, corresponding to movies and public feedback,” Chew informed senators. “This entry shall be very restricted, it won’t embrace the personal info of TikTok US customers, and it’ll solely happen in accordance with protocols being developed with the US authorities.”
The letter doesn’t define the administration construction of US-based TikTok staff who report back to ByteDance’s China-based superiors, a key level in earlier BuzzFeed Information studies.