China-based staff at TikTok’s father or mother firm, ByteDance, repeatedly accessed delicate U.S. person knowledge “in contravention of a number of public representations,” the committee mentioned.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has despatched a letter to the Federal Commerce Fee asking that it open an investigation into whether or not TikTok misled U.S. lawmakers about China-based staff of its father or mother firm, ByteDance, accessing American person knowledge.
The letter, signed by committee chairman Senator Mark Warner and vice chairman Senator Marco Rubio, cites “repeated misrepresentations by TikTok regarding its knowledge safety, knowledge processing, and company governance practices.” (Disclosure: In a former life, I held coverage positions at Fb.)
It references a bombshell BuzzFeed Information report that China-based staff of ByteDance repeatedly accessed delicate U.S. person knowledge into early 2022, in accordance with leaked audio from greater than 80 inside conferences regarding TikTok’s efforts to scale back the circulate of knowledge from the U.S. to China by means of a take care of cloud supplier Oracle. (TikTok has since confirmed that ByteDance staff in China can entry delicate U.S. person knowledge.)
“Whereas TikTok has advised that migrating to U.S.-based storage from a U.S. cloud service supplier alleviates any threat of unauthorized entry, these newest revelations elevate considerations in regards to the reliability of TikTok representations,” Warner and Rubio write.
The letter additionally highlights BuzzFeed Information’ reporting that TikTok staff who work with delicate U.S. person knowledge proceed to report back to ByteDance executives in Beijing, regardless of TikTok’s current claims to the Senate Intelligence Committee that “all company governance selections are wholly firewalled from their PRC-based father or mother, ByteDance.”
“For 2 years, we have talked openly about our work to restrict entry to person knowledge throughout areas, and in our letter to senators final week we had been clear about our progress in limiting entry even additional by means of our work with Oracle,” TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan mentioned in response to a request for remark. “As we have said repeatedly, TikTok has by no means shared U.S. person knowledge with the Chinese language authorities, nor would we if requested.”
The FTC confirmed receipt of the letter, however declined to remark.
TikTok has been underneath scrutiny since 2019, when the Committee on International Funding in america (CFIUS) started investigating ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly, the app that grew to become TikTok, as a possible nationwide safety threat. CFIUS declined to remark.
In 2020, considerations that the Chinese language authorities may use TikTok’s huge assortment of knowledge to surveil U.S. residents prompted then-President Donald Trump to threaten to ban the app except it was offered to a U.S. firm. The ban by no means occurred, however TikTok as a substitute started working with CFIUS and Oracle to limit entry to some delicate knowledge about U.S. customers from ByteDance staff in China, an effort known as Project Texas.
Whereas TikTok and ByteDance publicly downplayed their relationship and emphasised that U.S. person knowledge is saved within the U.S., the leaked meetings about Project Texas reveal the extent to which China-based staff have had entry to this knowledge. “Every thing is seen in China,” a member of TikTok’s Belief and Security division mentioned in a September 2021 assembly.
The revelation has revived lawmakers’ fears about ByteDance’s relationship with TikTok and TikTok’s plans to safeguard American knowledge. On June 24, six senators despatched a letter to the Treasury Division asking for particulars of the negotiation between TikTok and CFIUS, which studies into Treasury. On June 28, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr known as on Apple and Google to take away TikTok from their app shops.
That very same day, 9 Republican senators additionally despatched TikTok a letter, asking questions on China-based ByteDance staff’ entry to U.S. person knowledge and elevating considerations that TikTok’s Head of Public Coverage for the Americas Michael Beckerman “didn’t present truthful or forthright solutions to the Senate Commerce Committee” at a 2021 listening to.
TikTok responded to the letter by saying that ByteDance staff outdoors of the U.S. can entry delicate U.S. knowledge, so long as they’ve been licensed to take action by a U.S.-based safety crew. The letter doesn’t tackle the truth that staff licensed to work with U.S. person knowledge (together with the brand new United States Technical Providers crew, created as a part of Venture Texas) report back to ByteDance management in Beijing.