It turns out that American users of popular social media app TikTok can have their information accessed by employees at the app’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance Ltd.
TikTok Chief Executive Officer Shou Zi Chew confirmed as much in a letter to nine U.S. senators, according to Bloomberg News.
The outlet reported that Chinese-based employees who clear a number of internal security protocols can access certain information on TikTok’s U.S. users, including public videos and comments.
But Mr. Chew said none of that information is shared with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government, per Bloomberg, and that the process is subject to “robust cybersecurity controls.”
Some of those senators weren’t convinced.
“TikTok’s response confirms our fears about the CCP’s influence in the company were well founded,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, told Bloomberg. “The Chinese-run company should have come clean from the start, but it attempted to shroud its work in secrecy. Americans need to know if they are on TikTok, Communist China has their information.”
TikTok said it’s putting more of the app’s hardware infrastructure stateside in order to strengthen security around Americans’ data.
It’s a joint effort with the U.S. government called “Project Texas,” Bloomberg reported, and involves storing information in domestic data centers and shifting its platform to Oracle Corp.’s cloud.
Scrutiny of the social media app’s practices have been a Republican-led effort.
Bloomberg reported that 27 Republican senators cited a BuzzFeed News report in a letter late last month that said TikTok’s engineers had accessed U.S. consumer data. The letter said such access allowed TikTok and ByteDance to “surveil Americans,” according to Bloomberg.