TikTok CEO Shaw Zi Chew responded to nine Republican senators’ concerns about data privacy in China and access to US user data, which he outlined in a June letter to the company.
Marsha Blackburn, R-Ten, expressed concern over a recent BuzzFeed News investigation that indicated China-based TikTok employees had access to data on US users. NBC News has not independently confirmed that reporting. TikTok is owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance and has been a target for Republicans in recent years.
Blackburn’s letter included a series of 11 questions that senators requested to be answered by July 18. In his answer sheet dated June 30, Chew addressed each question in detail.
Acknowledging that Chinese employees have limited access to US user data, Chew wrote that the “allegations and allegations” from the BuzzFeed News article are “false and not supported by facts.”
,[W]I am confident that when you review our responses, you will see that TikTok has never misled Congress about our data and security controls and practices.”
The BuzzFeed News report was based on leaked audio from internal TikTok meetings. Chew said the quotes used by BuzzFeed News came from meetings for “Project Texas,” a long-term initiative of TikTok, which is striving to strengthen TikTok’s data privacy and protect US national security interests.
TikTok announced on June 17 that 100% of US user data will now be stored in the US via Oracle, with some backups being conducted in Singapore. Chew’s letter assures that in addition to the storage of data, TikTok will work to make all data sharing outside the US compliant with US government terms.
In the letter, Chew wrote, “Employees outside the US, including China-based employees, may access TikTok US user data subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols overseen by our US-based security team.” ” TikTok categorizes data based on its sensitivity, and it increases the level of approval required based on the sensitivity.
Some non-sensitive data, such as public videos and comments, that are accessible to any user worldwide, will not be accessible to employees based in the US, including employees based in China. However, that reach would still be extremely limited, Chew wrote.
Furthermore, Chew said in his letter that ByteDance staff can assist with the development of the TikTok algorithm, but the algorithm will only be trained on data from US-based Oracle Storage. According to the letter, ByteDance also helps in hiring some of the key personnel of TikTok.
“TikTok’s response confirms that our fears about [Chinese Communist Party] The influences within the company are well established,” Sen. Blackburn said in a statement to NBC News. “He should have clarified from the start, but instead he tried to keep his work a secret. Need to know that if they are on TikTok, then Communist China has their information. Tiktok needs to come back and testify before Congress.”
The 2017 National Intelligence Law mandates that Chinese organizations and citizens “support, assist and cooperate with the state’s intelligence work.” In other words, companies operating in China may be forced to provide data to the government.
Sen. Blackburn’s letter includes questions like, “If the Communist Party of China asked you for US user data, what is there to stop you from providing it? Is the CCP obligated to provide you with this data regardless of the response.” Can they? Can they access it regardless of the response?”
Chew partially addressed these questions in his letter, writing, “We have not been asked for such data from CCP. We have not provided US user data to CCP, and neither will we when asked.” “