TikTok employees in China can see your data, company admits

TikTok logo
TikTok logo (Image credit: TikTok)

What you need to know

  • TikTok has submitted a letter to U.S. senators in response to accusations about monitoring U.S. citizens.
  • The company is under scrutiny over concerns its parent company ByteDance may be a security threat in the U.S.
  • TikTok has now admitted that there are certain China-based employees who can see data from U.S. users.

TikTok appears to have admitted that there are certain employees at the company based in China that can access from American users, prompting an outcry from Republican senators.

TikTok has submitted a letter to nine U.S. senators who have accused the viral video platform and its parent company ByteDance of monitoring U.S. citizens.

As reported by Bloomberg:

TikTok, the viral video-sharing app owned by China's ByteDance Ltd., said certain employees outside the US can access information from American users, stoking further criticism from lawmakers who have raised alarms about the social network's data-sharing practices.The company's admission came in a letter to nine US senators who accused TikTok and its parent of monitoring US citizens and demanded answers on what's becoming a familiar line of questioning for the company

According to the letter obtained by Bloomberg, "China-based employees who clear a number of internal security protocols" at Tiktok can access "certain information on TikTok's US users, including public videos and comments."

While TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said that none of this information is shared with the Chinese government and is subject to "robust" cybersecurity controls, the revelation has prompted an outcry from the Republican senators calling for answers.

Tennesee Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn said the response "confirms our fears about the CCP's influence in the company were well-founded" and that "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."

The New York Times reports that TikTok included in its response a number of reassurances about data on the platform, including stating that it plans to operate its app on servers controlled by American company Oracle and use third-party audits:

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

TikTok's CEO said the company knows it is among the most scrutinized platforms when it comes to security and aims to "remove any doubt about the security of U.S. user data." The report also expands on comments about China-based employees accessing U.S. data, stating that this was only when "subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols overseen by our U.S.-based security team." The company also says it plans to delete U.S. data from its own servers and store it entirely with Oracle.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9