China-based workers at TikTok’s guardian firm, ByteDance, repeatedly accessed delicate U.S. consumer knowledge “in contravention of a number of public representations,” the committee stated.
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 workers of its guardian firm, ByteDance, accessing American consumer 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 workers of ByteDance often accessed delicate U.S. consumer knowledge into early 2022, in keeping with leaked audio from greater than 80 inner conferences regarding TikTok’s efforts to cut back the circulate of knowledge from the U.S. to China by way of a cope with cloud supplier Oracle. (TikTok has since confirmed that ByteDance workers in China can entry delicate U.S. consumer knowledge.)
“Whereas TikTok has advised that migrating to U.S.-based storage from a U.S. cloud service supplier alleviates any danger of unauthorized entry, these newest revelations elevate issues concerning the reliability of TikTok representations,” Warner and Rubio write.
The letter additionally highlights BuzzFeed Information’ reporting that TikTok workers who work with delicate U.S. consumer 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 choices are wholly firewalled from their PRC-based guardian, ByteDance.”
“For 2 years, we have talked overtly about our work to restrict entry to consumer knowledge throughout areas, and in our letter to senators final week we had been clear about our progress in limiting entry even additional by way of our work with Oracle,” TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan stated in response to a request for remark. “As we have stated repeatedly, TikTok has by no means shared U.S. consumer 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 Overseas Funding in america (CFIUS) started investigating ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly, the app that grew to become TikTok, as a possible nationwide safety danger. CFIUS declined to remark.
In 2020, issues that the Chinese language authorities might 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 bought 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 workers in China, an effort known as Venture Texas.
Whereas TikTok and ByteDance publicly downplayed their relationship and emphasised that U.S. consumer knowledge is saved within the U.S., the leaked conferences about Venture Texas reveal the extent to which China-based workers have had entry to this knowledge. “All the pieces is seen in China,” a member of TikTok’s Belief and Security division stated 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 workers’ entry to U.S. consumer knowledge and elevating issues 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 workers exterior 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 deal with the truth that workers licensed to work with U.S. consumer 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.