TikTok, the popular social media app owned by China’s ByteDance, has confirmed that it stores some American users’ data in China, contrary to its previous claims that all data was stored on servers within the United States. This revelation comes amidst increasing concerns about national security and data privacy surrounding TikTok’s ownership.
TikTok acknowledged in a letter to two US senators that “certain creator data” is kept in China. The term “creators” describes people who have a business connection to TikTok, such as influencers who produce compensated content for the site. This includes private data like tax returns and social security numbers, claims Forbes magazine.
The Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party have neither requested or received any of this data from TikTok, it has been made clear. The national security rules in China, which provide authorities the authority to compel Chinese enterprises to assist in monitoring activities, are the reason why fears still exist.
US senators Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal expressed deep concern over the situation, stating that TikTok’s response confirms that Americans’ data remains vulnerable to the Chinese government’s spying regimes. Western governments worry that the data collected by TikTok can be accessed and exploited by Chinese agents for espionage purposes.
Earlier this year, TikTok faced a ban on British government officials’ devices due to concerns over data security, with critics labeling it a “Chinese government data harvester.” Similar concerns have been voiced by officials in various countries, emphasizing the potential for Beijing to exploit vulnerabilities through TikTok.
TikTok has often denied working with Beijing and has filed a lawsuit to overturn sanctions. The business sued the state of Montana, which plans to outlaw the app the next year, asserting that such limitations violate Americans’ right to free speech.
As the controversy over TikTok and its data practices rages on, bigger issues including data privacy, national security, and the expanding power of foreign-owned social media platforms are brought up. Both governments and individuals are struggling to find a balance between using these platforms for their intended purposes and protecting private information from potential exploitation.