TikTok tells Republican senators how it plans to keep US data out of China.


TikTok gave US lawmakers more details in a letter dated Thursday about how it plans to separate data about its US users from ByteDance, its Chinese parent company, in a bid to combat concerns that the app video poses a national security risk.

In a letter to nine Republican senators, Shou Zi Chew, chief executive of TikTok, explained how the company would operate the app from servers controlled by Oracle, the American cloud computing giant. TikTok would be run from the US company’s machines and audited by a third party, Mr Chew said. He also reiterated a plan to store US users’ personal information with Oracle, rather than on TikTok’s servers.

“We know that we are among the most scrutinized platforms from a security perspective, and we aim to remove any doubts about the security of US users’ data,” Chew wrote in the letter, which was obtained. by the New York Times.

TikTok, which is hugely popular for its short, viral meme-making videos, has been working to refute concerns it is a national security risk. For years, critics of the app feared that the Chinese government was requesting American-owned data directly from ByteDance and that TikTok was subject to the influence of the Chinese Communist Party.

In 2020, President Donald J. Trump raised these concerns and demanded that ByteDance sell TikTok if the app were to remain in US app stores. His administration then announced a deal in which ByteDance would sell at least part of TikTok to Oracle, though the deal never materialized.

TikTok remains under the control of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a group of government agencies that reviews foreign purchases by American companies.

Last month, BuzzFeed News reported that ByteDance employees had access to app data as recently as this year and that employees were struggling to wrap up the information collected by the app.

After the report, nine Republican senators — including Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and John Thune of South Dakota — wrote to TikTok asking about its practices. Last month, a member of the Federal Communications Commission also said Apple and Google should remove TikTok from their app stores.

In Mr. Chew’s letter responding to Republican senators, he said ByteDance employees in China could only access TikTok data when “subjected to a series of robust cybersecurity controls and approval protocols permissions overseen by our US-based security team”.

He also reiterated the company’s hope that it would soon be able to remove US data from its servers and store the information entirely with Oracle. (Some details of his plans were first reported by BuzzFeed.)

“We have not spoken publicly about these plans out of respect for the confidentiality of engagement with the U.S. government, but circumstances now require that we share some of this information publicly to dispel errors and misconceptions in the article. and some lingering concerns related to other aspects of our business,” he said.

But Mr. Chew also clarified that ByteDance employees in China would still work on TikTok. Those employees can still develop the algorithm that provides personalized video recommendations to TikTok users, he said, although Oracle “ensures that training of the TikTok algorithm” occurs only on its servers.

And certain information — like public videos and comments — would remain available to ByteDance employees under terms approved by the U.S. government, he wrote, to “ensure global interoperability so that our users, creators, brands and American merchants benefit from the same rich and safe TikTok. experience as global users.


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