Bytedance, TikTok’s parent company, is reportedly committed to making changes that will “fully safeguard user data and U.S. national security interests”. The decision is due to an FCC commissioner in the United States calling on both Apple and Google to remove TikTok from the app stores.
Late last month, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr wrote a two-page open letter to Apple and Google. In the letter, he described it as a “data-gathering tool for the Chinese authorities”.
“Through leaked audio recordings, last week’s BuzzFeed News report revealed that ByteDance officials in Beijing have repeatedly accessed the sensitive data that TikTok has collected from Americans after those U.S. users downloaded the app through your app stores. “Everything is seen in China,” a TikTok official said in the recordings, despite the fact that TikTok has repeatedly represented that the data it gathers about Americans is stored in the United States…” wrote Carr.
According to the report, TikTok collects information like search and browsing histories, keystroke patterns, and biometric identifiers—including faceprints and voiceprints. Additionally, it collects location data as well as draft messages and metadata, plus text, images, and videos that are stored on a device’s clipboard.
In its response, ByteDance confirmed that some employees do need to “have access to TikTok U.S. user data”. It went on to clarify that these employees are “subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols overseen by our U.S. based security team”.
In 2020, TikTok had a ban scare during the Trump administration. ByteDance was previously already called out by critics for its shady privacy practices and “potential ties to the Communist government”. It even came to the point when companies like Microsoft were prepared to explore the purchase of TikTok in the United States.
Now, the company said that it is in the process of finalising “new advanced data security controls” in partnership with Oracle. ByteDance migrated the US user data to Oracle servers just last month. But once this agreement is finalised, TIkTok says it will “delete U.S. users’ protected data” from their systems.
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