TikTok comes clean and admits China-based employees can access data it has on you

There might be something fishy about China’s ByteDance’s short-form video app TikTok’s data security practices after all, suggests a new Bloomberg report.

Former US President Donald Trump deemed TikTok a security risk and tried to ban it. He wanted the parent company ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US business. President Joe Biden revoked the ban in June 2021.

Recently, some US senators accused TikTok of keeping tabs on US citizens, after Buzzfeed News published a report that said TikTok’s engineers in China could access US consumer data and had asked whether China-based employees had access to US users’ data and whether that information was being shared with the Chinese government.

Responding to those nine senators, TikTok Chief Executive Officer Shou Zi Chew admitted in a letter that some China-based employees can access information from US users, including public videos and comments. He added that none of that data is shared with the Chinese government and is subject to tough security controls.

Chew also said that TikTok has limited links to ByteDance and the information that non-US-based employees are able to access is non-sensitive in nature and this sharing helps ensure global interoperability.

This led to more criticism from US lawmakers about TikTok’s data-sharing protocols.

TikTok says it’s working with the US government to strengthen security around consumer data, especially the information that the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) defines as protected.

Under an effort called “Project Texas, ‘the social media company is making moves to address lawmakers’ concerns. This includes physically storing information about US customers on US servers owned by Oracle. TikTok is also shifting its platform to the American software company’s cloud infrastructure.
Currently, 100 percent of US traffic is routed to Oracle Corp, but that data is backed up to the company’s own data centers in the US and Singapore. TikTok intends to fully migrate to Oracle’s US servers in the future and delete the information from its own systems.

According to app intelligence company SensorTower, TikTok has been downloaded 321.6 million times in the US.

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