TikTok has stated in the Senate that it will not halt the transfer of user data from the United States to China. Opponents have slammed TikTok after evidence suggests that data from US-based users were routinely accessed from China. Instead, the Senate was guaranteed by the short-form video application that it would address all national security issues mentioned at the session.
TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas spoke before the Senate and exchanged viewpoints with politicians, notably Senator Rob Portman, who asked about TikTok’s present structure.
“Will TikTok commit to cutting off all data and data flows to China, China-based TikTok employees, ByteDance employees, or any other party in China that might have the capability to access information on US users?” Senator Portman asked.
Portman’s query arises from his fear that the Chinese government may gain access to sensitive information about US customers. Since then, lawmakers have raised concerns about how these data may be utilized in campaigns, operations, and other activities that could damage the country.
The Senate has previously summoned TikTok. However, the problem was resolved many weeks later. It was then reignited after BuzzFeed published a video of a TikTok employee indicating that employees in China had access to US-based users.
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The issue will be addressed by TikTok
Pappas noted that TikTok does not operate in China, despite the fact that a Chinese corporation owns it.
“Again, we take this incredibly seriously in terms of upholding trust with US citizens and ensuring the safety of US user data. As it relates to access and controls, we are going to be going above and beyond in leading initiative efforts with our partner, Oracle, and also to the satisfaction of the US government through our work with [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States], which we do hope to share more information on,” Pappas added.
Portman then questioned Pappas about the mysterious ‘Master Admin,’ who was referenced in the video. According to the BuzzFeed piece, the employee in question had complete access to everything. Pappas refuted the assertion, claiming that the ‘Master Admin’ identity does not exist in the system.
Pappas confirmed that Chinese staff has access to US users’ data, but she underscored that “under no circumstances [would] they give that data to China.” However, the CEO remained tight-lipped about alleged Chinese government control over ByteDance, TikTok’s parent organization.
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Threatening national security in the US
Several parties have hotly debated the concerns surrounding TikTok, frequently emphasizing the risks it may cause to national security.
“The fact that the Chinese government, if it really wants to, can make any company in its borders comply with data access requests, I think, is really at the root of a lot of these concerns about TikTok,” stated a Cyber Statecraft Initiative of the Atlantic Council fellow, Justin Sherman.
“There are real national security questions being asked. But if all you’re doing is writing letters about specific companies and not actually writing and testing laws and regulations to control for risks, in the long run, nothing’s really going to change too much,” Sherman explained.
Meanwhile, TikTok responded to these charges and stated weeks ago that TikTok “consistently maintained that our engineers in locations outside of the US, including China, can be granted access to US user data on an as-needed basis under those strict controls.”