In response to concerns by nine Republican senators about TikTok’s access to U.S. user data in China in June, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew wrote that the “allegations and insinuations” outlined in the BuzzFeed News article in question are “incorrect and are not supported by facts.”
The senator’s letter, led by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., had expressed concern over a recent BuzzFeed News investigation that claimed TikTok employees had violated data privacy, and demanded that TikTok be removed from the Apple app store and Google play store.
In his response, Chew addressed the 11 questions outlined in the letter in detail, stating: “We are confident that when you review our responses, you will see that TikTok has not, at any point, misled Congress about our data and security controls and practices.”
He added that although China-based employees “can have access to TikTok US user data”, the access is subject to “robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols overseen by our US-based security team.”
The Beijing-based company ByteDance has been a target for Republican senators for years, and the BuzzFeed News report was based on leaked audio recordings from internal TikTok meetings around “Project Texas”, one of TikTok’s long-term initiatives, where the team was discussing how to strengthen TikTok’s data privacy terms and protect U.S. national security interests.
On June 17th, TikTok announced that 100% of U.S. user data will now be stored in the U.S. via Oracle, with some backups held in Singapore. In his letter, Chew said that he is working with the Biden administration to ensure that all data sharing outside of the U.S. is compliant with the terms of the U.S. government.
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