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TikTok Non-Committal on Blocking Flow of US User Data to China

During the Senate Homeland Security Committee testimony, Senator Rob Portman and TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas argued over the company's corporate structure.

TikTok Non-Committal on Blocking Flow of US User Data to China
  • PublishedSeptember 16, 2022

TikTok was again under fire by the US government over its use of data. The Chinese video-sharing platform once again refrained from pledging to US legislators that it would stop sending user data from US users to China. Instead, the short video platform assured that the outcome of the allegations would “satisfy any national security concerns.”

During its Senate Homeland Security Committee testimony, Sen. Rob Portman and TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas argued over the company’s corporate structure. TikTok’s data policy and the use of its users’ data have been a cause of concern among officials. However, the company denied all sources of allegations, stating that it did not send data to China, nor was it involved in data harvesting of any kind.

US authorities concerned over TikTok’s use of data

TikTok has been the center of attention since many individuals and companies pointed to data manipulation. Several firms claimed that apps like TikTok could access user data in the US, which the Chinese government could use to spread the country’s propaganda in the West. Since China’s national security regulation requires Chinese businesses to cooperate with data demands, the bipartisan concern in Washington is that the US user data could end up there and be used to harm the country’s interests.

Authorities in the US have expressed concern over the Chinese apps, especially when countries like India have already banned them. The authorities stated that these Chinese apps could be utilized to access personal data on Americans to identify possible agents or intelligence targets who could be helpful, as well as to shape upcoming misinformation or disinformation campaigns.

During their Senate Homeland Security Committee testimony, Pappas claimed that TikTok held an office in China, but it did not mean that they operated there. TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, hosts several short video apps, such as Toutiao, TikTok, Douyin, BuzzVideo, Vigo Video, Helo, and Resso.

TikTok audio leak

Following a BuzzFeed News report in June, based on leaked meeting audio, claimed that ByteDance personnel had repeatedly accessed US user data, US worries regarding TikTok were rekindled.

Later, in a letter to Congress, TikTok acknowledged that people in China could access user data from the US but emphasized the issues with the US-based security team that overlooked the protection measures.

In the hearing on Wednesday, Pappas confirmed that the business has publicly stated that its Chinese employees have access to US user data. She also reaffirmed TikTok’s assurance that it would “under no circumstances… transfer that data to China” and refuted claims that China has any influence on the app.

When Portman asked Pappas to react to the BuzzFeed report once more on Wednesday, Pappas declined the allegations.

Written By
Ashish Khaitan

Ashish is a technical writer at The Cyber Express. He adores writing about the latest technologies and covering the latest cybersecurity events. In his free time, he likes to play horror and open-world video games.

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