March 22, 2023

App hasn’t shared US data with Chinese govt – TikTok CEO


By Biodun Busari

The Chief Executive Officer of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew has said the controversial popular Chinese-owned video-sharing app has never shared the United States data with the authorities in China.

Shou said this ahead of his testimony before the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.

TikTok’s chief will tell lawmakers who will be hearing on behalf of more than 150 million American users that the app never has, and would never, share US user data with the Chinese government amid growing national security concerns, Reuters said.

“TikTok has never shared, or received a request to share, US user data with the Chinese government. Nor would TikTok honour such a request if one were ever made,” Shou posted this as part of his written testimony posted on Tuesday.

He added that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is not owned or controlled by any government or state entity.

“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” Shou will tell the committee.

TikTok’s critics fear that its US user data could be passed on to China’s government by the app and stimulated mounting pressure to ban the app by US lawmakers.

Last week, TikTok said the President Joe Biden administration demanded that its Chinese owners deprive their stake in the app or it could face a US ban.

“Bans are only appropriate when there are no alternatives. But we do have an alternative,” Shou’s testimony said.

TikTok has said it has spent more than $1.5 billion on what it termed rigorous data security efforts under the name “Project Texas” and has tried to convince lawmakers and the Biden administration to support the plan.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a robust national security body, had unanimously recommended in 2020 that ByteDance separate TikTok.

Under pressure from then-President Trump, ByteDance in late 2020 unsuccessfully sought to finalize a deal with Walmart and Oracle to shift TikTok’s US assets into a new entity and Trump then lost court battles seeking to ban TikTok.

“Oracle has already begun inspecting TikTok’s source code and will have unprecedented access to the related algorithms and data models,” Shou’s testimony said.

Shou said when the process is complete “all protected US data will be under the protection of US law and under the control of the US-led security team. Under this structure, there is no way for the Chinese government to access it or compel access to it.”

The company said it had started this month to delete US user-protected data in data centres in Virginia and Singapore after it began routing new US data to the Oracle Cloud last year. Shou’s testimony said it expects this process to be completed later this year.

Shou’s testimony said 60% of ByteDance is owned by global institutional investors including Blackrock, General Atlantic, and Sequoia, about 20% by the company’s founders, and about 20% owned by its employees “including thousands of Americans.”

TikTok said on Monday that more than 150 million people in the United States use TikTok on a monthly basis after saying in 2020 that 100 million Americans used the app. Shou’s testimony says the average user today is an adult well past college age.

“While users in the United States represent 10% of our global community, their voice accounts for 25% of the total views around the world,” Shou’s testimony said.