TikTok is working on a deal with the Biden administration that would “fully protect” the app in the US and allay concerns about Chinese government access to Americans’ data, according to a letter TikTok sent to nine Republican senators that was released on Friday.
Show Zi Chu, chief executive of TikTok, wrote that the company is close to a final agreement with the US government to ensure its data-sharing practices do not raise national security concerns.
TikTok says that as part of the arrangement, all U.S. user traffic is now routed to servers controlled by California-based Oracle, rather than TikTok’s own infrastructure. Soon, he said, TikTok hopes to remove all U.S. data from the company’s servers and rely entirely on Oracle storage, “with access restricted to authorized personnel only, in accordance with protocols being developed by the U.S. government,” Chu wrote.
Employees of Beijing-based ByteDance, which owns TikTok, can access data on the app, Chu wrote to senators. Company acknowledged before that some employees may access user data in the US, but new details have been added to the letter.
For example, the data that foreign employees can view is “a narrow set of non-sensitive TikTok user data,” including public videos and comments left on videos, Chu writes. He said none of this data is shared with Chinese government officials, and ByteDance employees can only see Americans’ TikTok data after an approval process overseen by the US security team.
This system is designed to prevent possible requests from the Chinese authorities. TikTok has long claimed that Beijing has never sought Americans’ information through TikTok, but the opportunity has put the hugely popular video app under the guns of Washington lawmakers.
Republican senators, including Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, have raised new alarms about TikTok following a recent BuzzFeed report detailing Chinese employees’ access to Americans’ data.
And Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr recently called on Google and Apple to remove TikTok from their app stores for being a major national security risk. Carr worries that the Chinese Community Party may get sensitive personal information from Americans.
“In fact, they came out and said that, well, of course, some data is accessed there. But only as needed. And the definition of “as needed” when it comes to those indebted to CCP is very, very different from what you or I might imagine in terms of “as needed,” Carr said Thursday in an interview with NPR. morning edition.
The US Committee on Foreign Investment, a group led by the Treasury Department and including senior officials such as the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, continues to work with TikTok on security measures that satisfy US authorities.
With over 1 billion active users worldwide, TikTok is the first global social network to emerge from China. Despite being the largest market, it has had a hard time in the US.
The Trump administration has launched an all-out war on TikTok, seeking to shut down the app in the US unless it is completely separated from ByteDance. His administration announced a deal with Oracle and Walmart that would have moved TikTok’s headquarters to the US, but the deal was ultimately derailed.
While the Biden White House did not follow its predecessor’s scorched-earth approach, the administration has continued to negotiate with the company about national security to make sure Americans’ data is safe.
Some Republicans to whom TikTok addressed the letter were dissatisfied with its content. Blackburn is urging TikTok leaders to return to Washington for public testimony before Congress.
“TikTok’s response confirms that our concerns about the CCP’s influence within the company are well founded,” Blackburn said in a statement. “They should have told the truth from the start, but instead they tried to keep their work a secret. Americans should know that if they are on TikTok, communist China has their information.”
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