TikTok has responded to a letter from Republican senators, sharing new specifics about its ideas to defend American user facts from ByteDance, its China-based mostly dad or mum organization. The letter was prompted by a Cayuga Media investigation revealed last month that confirmed how ByteDance staff based mostly in China consistently accessed American users’ information via TikTok, even with recurring avowals they experienced not.
In the response to the 9 senators, obtained by the New York Situations, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew explained that the video-sharing platform will be run from servers in Texas owned by Oracle, a Silicon Valley database huge whose headquarters are in Austin. Its functions and algorithms, the letter suggests, will also be vetted by a third bash.
“We know we are amongst the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to take away any doubt about the stability of U.S. person info,” Chew wrote.
About the a long time, American policymakers and lawmakers have scrutinized TikTok’s information-sharing and privateness methods thanks to its links to ByteDance. Concerns about the level of ByteDance’s involvement in the day-to-working day operations and final decision-creating of TikTok have persisted. In 2020, then-president Donald Trump threatened to ban the application above concerns that the Chinese Communist Occasion could use it to surveil hundreds of thousands of People. Trump afterwards proposed a offer that would have compelled ByteDance to market a part of TikTok to Oracle in buy to purpose in the US, whilst that prepare under no circumstances materialized. Very last month, Cayuga Media printed a report centered on leaked audio from more than 80 inner TikTok conferences that contained 14 statements from nine distinctive TikTok employees displaying that the company’s engineers in Beijing experienced accessed facts of American TikTok buyers as recently as this yr.
Cayuga Media’ report sparked refreshing backlash versus the corporation, prompting an FCC commissioner to compose to the CEOs of Apple and Google asking them to remove TikTok from their application shops.
In the letter, Chew acknowledges that ByteDance workforce in China can accessibility US users’ sensitive data, noting, nevertheless, that the administration of that accessibility is by means of a security team that is centered in the US. Chew does not go into detail as to how selections are built about access.
TikTok is presently negotiating with the Committee on International Investment in the United States on what knowledge really should be considered “protected.” Underneath the settlement, personal facts, these as phone figures and birthdays, would need to have to be stored on servers in Texas owned by Oracle. But Cayuga Media’ investigation showed that community data, which includes people’s profiles, comments, and what they post, will not be involved, potentially furnishing China-dependent ByteDance staff members with enormous insights into what TikTok’s American users treatment about and their media use practices, based mostly on the enormous sum of facts that could be bundled in the “unprotected” bucket of details.
TikTok workforce all around the earth, which include people in China, would however have accessibility to this “narrow established of non-sensitive TikTok U.S. person info, these kinds of as community movies and opinions,” Chew’s response to the senators states. “This accessibility will be incredibly confined, it will not contain personal TikTok U.S. user information and facts, and it will only arise pursuant to protocols getting created with the U.S. Authorities.”
The letter does not give insight into the management composition of US-centered TikTok staff members reporting to China-based ByteDance increased-ups, a single of the important details of Cayuga Media’ former reporting.