Fears that China could eavesdrop on TikTok users were confirmed in leaked recordings from internal meetings held by the social media app’s parent company, in line with a bombshell report Friday.
The recordings revealed that China-based employees of ByteDance repeatedly accessed data tied to US users — raising fresh concerns about TikTok, which once faced a ban in america due to privacy concerns.
Audio clips from dozens of meetings revealed 14 statements from nine TikTok employees who said that ByteDance engineers in China could access nonpublic US user data, BuzzFeed reported, citing material from greater than 80 meetings.
The Chinese employees were able to accessing the data from no less than September 2021 through January.
The leaked recordings suggest that Beijing-based ByteDance’s ability to access US user data was farther-reaching than previously known — with one TikTok director stating at a September 2021 gathering that one unnamed engineer in China was “Master Admin” who “has access to every little thing.”
In a separate meeting that very same month, a member of TikTok’s Trust and Safety department purportedly said that “every little thing is seen in China.”
BuzzFeed said the recordings were made at TikTok meetings starting from closed-door talks between company executives to all-hands presentations. The report suggests that TikTok officials could have downplayed the extent to which China had access to its database in communications with each congressional lawmakers and the general public.
TikTok’s ties to China are under fresh scrutiny.REUTERS
The outlet said it compiled statements from eight different employees who said US-based TikTok employees needed to seek the advice of with colleagues in China to evaluate the flow of user information — with American employees reportedly lacking the flexibility to have a look at the information.
TikTok is one of the popular social media platforms, especially with children and young adults, having greater than 1 billion energetic users worldwide.
“We all know we’re amongst probably the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt concerning the security of US user data,” TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan said in a press release to BuzzFeed.
“That’s why we hire experts of their fields, continually work to validate our security standards, and convey in reputable, independent third parties to check our defenses,” the spokesperson added.
TikTok elaborated on its position in a separate statement to The Post.
“As we’ve publicly stated, we’ve brought in world class internal and external security experts to assist us strengthen our data security efforts,” a TikTok spokesperson said. “That is standard industry practice given the complexity of knowledge security challenges.
“In May, we created a latest in-house department, U.S. Data Security (USDS), with US-based leadership, to supply a greater level of focus and governance on US data security,” the spokesperson added. “The creation of this organization is an element of our ongoing effort and commitment to strengthen our data protection policies and protocols, further protect our users, and construct confidence in our systems and controls.”
TikTok sought to handle concerns about user security in a blog post shortly before BuzzFeed’s story was published. The blog post revealed that TikTok had migrated data on its US users to servers run by Oracle.
“We’re also making operational changes according to this work — including the brand new department we recently established, with US-based leadership, to solely manage US user data for TikTok,” the blog post said. “Together, these changes will implement additional worker protections, provide more safeguards, and further minimize data transfer outside of the US.”
Former President Donald Trump once pursued a ban of TikTok.REUTERS
Former President Donald Trump’s administration repeatedly raised concerns that the Chinese Community Party could improperly gain access to the private data of American users. Trump officials argued that parent company ByteDance had direct ties to officials in Beijing and posed a national security risk.
Trump attempted to compel ByteDance to sell TikTok and likewise pursued an outright ban on downloads of the social media app by executive order. The latter effort was blocked by a federal judge.
Former President Donald Trump’s administration argued TikTok could pose a national security risk.Reuters
President Biden later revoked the Trump-era effort to ban TikTok and as an alternative ordered Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to conduct a review of apps that would pose a security risk.