TikTok confirmed that China-based employees of the Chinese parent company, ByteDance, have access to US user data under certain circumstances in a letter obtained by The New York Times in response to nine Republican senators’ inquiries about the case.
“Non-US employees, including China-based employees, may have access to TikTok US user data subject to a variety of robust cyber security checks and authorization authentication protocols monitored by our US-based security team,” TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew wrote in a letter.
“TikTok has an in-house data classification system and authentication process in place that assigns access levels based on data classification and requires approvals for access to U.S. user data,”[ads1]; Chew added. “The level of authentication required is based on the sensitivity of the data according to the classification system.”
Sal Rodriguez, who is currently a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, first reported to CNBC last year that ByteDance had access to US data and was closely involved in making decisions for TikTok.
A new light was shed on privacy and security concerns after BuzzFeed News recently reported, based on audio from internal meetings they obtained, that ByteDance employees had repeatedly gained access to US user data over a period of at least four months, and that employees in USA. did not have permission to access it.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News for its report, a TikTok spokesman said in part, “We know we are among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubts about the security of US user data.”
The same day BuzzFeed News published its story, TikTok announced that “100% of US user traffic is routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure,” instead of being stored in its own data centers in the US and Singapore.
In the letter, Chew wrote that the BuzzFeed News report “contains allegations and insinuations that are incorrect and not supported by facts.”
After BuzzFeed News published its report, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores.