Photo Credit: Stefani Reynolds
In the Senate, TikTok stated clearly that it would not halt the transfer of US user data to China. As a result of data suggesting that TikTok users with US locations were routinely accessed from China, the app has come under fire. Instead, the company vowed to address all national security issues brought up at the meeting.
Chief Operating Officer of TikTok Vanessa Pappas testified before the Senate and engaged in discussion with senators, notably Senator Rob Portman, who questioned the present TikTok structure.
“Will TikTok commit to cutting off all data and data flows to China, China-based TikTok employees, ByteDance employees, or any other party in China that might have the capability to access information on US users?” asked Senator Portman.
The worry behind Portman’s query is the potential for the Chinese government to obtain vital information on US-based users. Since then, lawmakers have voiced their concerns about how this data may be utilized in operations, campaigns, and other ways that could put the nation at risk.
TikTok has previously been requested by the Senate. Nevertheless, the problem subsided a few weeks later. The controversy was then reignited by the BuzzFeed-reported video of a TikTok employee indicating that employees in China have access to user data based in the US.
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TikTok says they take matters seriously
TikTok does not operate in China, despite being owned by a firm whose owner is Chinese, according to Pappas.
“Again, we take this incredibly seriously in terms of upholding trust with US citizens and ensuring the safety of US user data. As it relates to access and controls, we are going to be going above and beyond in leading initiative efforts with our partner, Oracle, and also to the satisfaction of the US government through our work with [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States], which we do hope to share more information on,” Pappas further explained.
Portman pressed Pappas more on the alleged “Master Admin” who was alluded to in the video. According to the BuzzFeed piece, the person mentioned had access to everything. According to Pappas, who refuted the assertion, the identity of “Master Admin” does not exist in the system.
Although the CEO was coy about potential Chinese government control over ByteDance, the parent firm of TikTok, she acknowledged that Chinese staff have access to US user’s data and highlighted that “under no circumstances [they] would provide such data to China.”
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National security threats
Numerous parties have long debated the problems with TikTok, frequently bringing up potential concerns to national security.
“The fact that the Chinese government, if it really wants to, can make any company in its borders comply with data access requests, I think, is really at the root of a lot of these concerns about TikTok,” stated Justin Sherman, a Cyber Statecraft Initiative of the Atlantic Council fellow.
“There are real national security questions being asked. But if all you’re doing is writing letters about specific companies and not actually writing and testing laws and regulations to control for risks, in the long run, nothing’s really going to change too much,” he added.
Meanwhile, TikTok addressed these claims and made it plain weeks ago that TikTok “consistently maintained that our engineers in locations outside of the US, including China, can be granted access to US user data on an as-needed basis under those strict controls.”