Chinese-owned social media app TikTok has sought to reassure US lawmakers over its knowledge practices, amid renewed issues concerning the menace to nationwide safety if non-public consumer data is accessible by Beijing.
In a letter to 9 Republican senators dated June 30, TikTok chief government Shou Zi Chew stated the app, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, was engaged on “compliance with a final agreement with the US government that will fully safeguard user data and US national security interests”.
The efforts centre round working with US cloud software program firm Oracle “on new, advanced data security controls”, designed to make sure all American consumer knowledge is saved within the nation, and that “all data sharing outside of the protected enclave in the United States will be pursuant to protocols and terms approved by the US government”, he stated.
TikTok is aiming to finish the method, which it has dubbed Project Texas, “in the near future”, he added.
The viral video app, which exploded in reputation amongst youngsters throughout coronavirus pandemic-related lockdowns, has been battling safety and privateness issues for a number of years, amid wider fears that Chinese firms may share American residents’ knowledge with Beijing for espionage functions.
President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing efforts by his predecessor, Donald Trump, to ban the app on nationwide safety grounds. The app faces scrutiny from the US Committee on Foreign Investment, or Cfius, a authorities panel that opinions overseas funding.
TikTok has beforehand stated it doesn’t share American consumer knowledge with the Chinese authorities.
However, a BuzzFeed report final month claimed that non-public US consumer knowledge was accessible to its China-based engineers as just lately as January, and that staffers had been discovering it tough to ensure that may not proceed, citing leaked audio from inside conferences.
The report prompted the 9 Republican senators to put in writing to Chew final week with questions on TikTok’s safety and privateness practices. The senators additionally recommended that the corporate had made “misrepresentations” to lawmakers at a congressional listening to final yr about whether or not its knowledge was accessible by China.
A Republican serving on the Federal Communications Commission this week additionally urged Apple and Google to take away TikTok from their app shops.
In his written response to the senators, first reported by The New York Times, Chew wrote that Chinese TikTok workers can solely entry US consumer knowledge “subject to a series of robust cyber security controls and authorisation approval protocols overseen by our US-based security team”. This protocol was being additional developed in accordance with US authorities and Cfius calls for, he stated.
He stated that staffers based mostly exterior the US would nonetheless be capable of develop its software program and algorithm, however that this is able to endure “third-party vetting”.
Chinese staffers would nonetheless have entry to “non-sensitive” US consumer knowledge similar to public feedback and movies, he stated.
In a press release final week, the corporate stated it had migrated default storage for US customers’ knowledge to Oracle cloud servers however that it was nonetheless utilizing its personal US and Singapore knowledge centres for back-up. It added that it anticipated to delete customers’ non-public knowledge from its personal knowledge centres to “fully pivot” to Oracle cloud servers in future.