TikTok, the Chinese-owned app, has attempted to reassure US legislators about its data procedures, following growing considerations about the harm to national security if the private user information is accessible to Beijing.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew wrote a letter to nine US senators on June 30, saying the app, which ByteDance owns, was working on “compliance with a final agreement with the US government that would completely preserve user data and US national security concerns.”
The efforts center on collaborating with the US cloud software provider Oracle “on new, enhanced data security controls” to ensure that all American user data is stored in the country and that “any data exchange outside of the protected enclave in the United States would be following norms and terms approved by the United States government,” he said.
“TikTok is aiming to complete the process, which it has dubbed Project Texas, in the near future,” he added.
The viral video app, which skyrocketed in popularity among teenagers during the pandemic, has been battling security and privacy concerns for several years, amid broader concerns that Chinese corporations may exchange data on American people with Beijing for espionage purposes.
President Joe Biden’s administration is revisiting former president Donald Trump’s efforts to prohibit the app on national security grounds. In addition, the US Committee on Foreign Investment (Cfius), a government agency that examines foreign investment, is looking into the app.
Furthermore, a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission also encouraged Apple and Google this week to remove TikTok from their app stores.
In his written response to the senators, Chew stated that Chinese TikTok personnel can only access US user data “subject to a variety of robust cyber security measures and authorization approval mechanisms monitored by our US-based security team.” He e stated that this protocol was being further developed in response to the US government and Cfius demands.
Moreover, he stated that employees based outside the United States would still be able to build the company’s software and algorithms but that this would be subject to “third-party vetting.” Finally, he stated that Chinese employees will still have accessibility to “non-sensitive” US user data such as public comments and videos.
The company stated last week that it had shifted default storage for US consumers’ data to Oracle cloud servers but was still utilizing its own US and Singapore data centers for backup. It also indicated that it planned to delete consumers’ sensitive data from its data centers in the future to “fully pivot” to Oracle cloud servers.