TikTok seeks to calm US lawmakers’ fears about data security

Chinese language-owned social media web site TikTok instructed US senators it was engaged on a closing settlement with the Biden Administration that might “absolutely safeguard person knowledge and US nationwide safety pursuits,” in line with a TikTok letter seen Friday by Reuters.

The letter dated Thursday got here in response to questions raised in a June 27 letter by just a few senators together with Republicans Marsha Blackburn and Ted Cruz, TikTok stated.

TikTok, owned by Chinese language know-how conglomerate ByteDance, is likely one of the world’s hottest social media apps, with greater than 1 billion lively customers globally. It counts america as its largest market.

TikTok Chief Govt Shou Zi Chew instructed senators in the letter the brief video app was working with Oracle on “new superior knowledge safety controls that we hope to finalize within the close to future.”

Final month, TikTok stated it had accomplished migrating US customers’ data to servers at Oracle however it was nonetheless utilizing US and Singapore knowledge facilities for backup.

TikTok’s letter acknowledged that China-based staff “can have entry to TikTok US person knowledge topic to a sequence of sturdy cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols overseen by our US-based safety crew.”

TikTok Chief Govt Shou Zi Chew, left, instructed lawmakers he hopes to finalize safety controls within the close to future.

TikTok stated it anticipated “to delete US customers’ protected knowledge from our personal techniques and absolutely pivot to Oracle cloud servers situated within the US”

TikTok has despatched a response to the senators’ letter, an organization spokesperson stated in a press release to Reuters. “We look ahead to connecting with members of Congress to debate the substance of our letter.”

TikTok is working to construct US-based engineering capability to additional scale back the necessity for knowledge entry throughout areas, the spokesperson added.

Senator Blackburn, of Tennessee, stated TikTok “ought to have come clear from the beginning however as a substitute tried to shroud their work in secrecy.” She stated TikTok must “come again and testify earlier than Congress.”

The TikTok letter got here practically two years after a US nationwide safety panel ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok due to fears that US person knowledge may very well be handed on to China’s communist authorities.

That order was not enforced after Joe Biden succeeded Donald Trump as US president final 12 months. The panel, nevertheless, often called the Committee on Overseas Funding in america (CFIUS), continues to be conducting a nationwide safety overview of the corporate, in line with the letter.

“We all know we’re among the many most scrutinized platforms from a safety standpoint and we intention to take away any doubt in regards to the safety of US person knowledge,” the letter stated.

TikTok has stated prior to now that staff in China have knowledge entry to US person knowledge. In a 2020 blogpost Roland Cloutier, TikTok’s chief data safety officer, stated, “Our aim is to reduce knowledge entry throughout areas in order that, for instance, staff within the APAC area, together with China, would have very minimal entry to person knowledge from the EU and US.”

A BuzzFeed story in June confirmed ByteDance engineers in China had entry to US knowledge between September 2021 and January 2022.

Shared algorithms

The letter additionally stated “ByteDance developed the algorithms for each Douyin and TikTok, and due to this fact among the similar underlying primary know-how constructing blocks are utilized by each merchandise.” TikTok is called Douyin in China.

However TikTok’s enterprise logic, algorithm, integration and deployment of techniques is particular to the TikTok utility and separate from Douyin, the letter stated.

Reuters beforehand reported that whereas the code for the app, which determines the appear and feel of TikTok, has been separated from Douyin, the server code was nonetheless partially shared throughout different ByteDance merchandise. The server code gives primary performance of the apps resembling knowledge storage, algorithms for moderating and recommending content material and the administration of person profiles. 

The Chinese language authorities took a stake and a board seat in a key ByteDance entity in 2021. 

TikTok defined in its letter to the senators that its acquisition of 1% of Beijing Douyin Info Service Ltd was needed to acquire a information license in China.

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