No matter how hard TikTok’s parent company, the China-based ByteDance tries to assure that it wasn’t trying to collect user’s data in the US, it’s hard to believe that. It seems like it did. According to recordings reviewed by BuzzFeed News, separate statements from nine different TikTok employees showed that engineers in China had access to U.S. data from at least September 2021 till January 2022.
In response to the data privacy concerns, TikTok always assured the users that the information gathered about the users in the United States is stored in the US, rather than China where ByteDance, the video platform’s parent company is located. But if the leaked audio of more than 80 internal TikTok meetings are to be believed, China-based employees of ByteDance have repeatedly accessed non-public data about US TikTok users. Now, this can precisely be termed as the behaviour that instigated former US President Donald Trump to ban the app in the United States.
China keeping an eye on US
“Everything is seen in China,” said a member of TikTok’s trust and safety department in a September 2021 meeting. “We will continue to push our goal of limiting the number of employees who have access to user data and the scenarios in which data access is enabled,” TikTok chief information security officer Roland Cloutier said in a statement, in a blog post featured by the company.
That means Donald Trump was smart enough to comprehend China’s espionage through a trending weapon. Trump was potentially correct in his assessment of the app by stating in an August 2022 executive order that TikTok’s “data collection threatens to allow” China to “access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.”
In response to a BuzzFeed News investigation, a TikTok spokesperson said the app is, “among the most scrutinised platforms from a security standpoint” and that it plans to “remove any doubt about the security of US user data.”
Well, not only the US but several other countries have also banned TikTok as their governments claim that this app is using data illegally, and secretly collecting information from users’ devices when they download the app. It jeopardises the country’s sovereignty and integrity. India has banned the app long back in 2020 along with some more Chinese apps citing security concerns.
During a meeting in September 2021, a member of TikTok’s Trust and Safety said “Everything shows in China.” In another meeting, a TikTok executive called a Beijing-based engineer a “master admin” who “has access to everything”.
Well, it is evident how Xi Jinping truly loves espionage and keeping an eye on other countries’ confidential data. China finds enjoyment in all the wrongdoings. It seems that it is becoming more and more difficult for one to maintain some semblance of privacy and data autonomy till Chinese apps exist.