BuzzFeed News: Leaked Audio Shows U.S. TikTok User Data Has Been Repeatedly Accessed From China

Emily Baker-White, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

For years, TikTok has responded to data privacy concerns by promising that information gathered about users in the United States is stored in the United States, rather than China, where ByteDance, the video platform’s parent company, is located. But according to leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings, China-based employees of ByteDance have repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users — exactly the type of behavior that inspired former president Donald Trump to threaten to ban the app in the United States.

The recordings, which were reviewed by BuzzFeed News, contain 14 statements from nine different TikTok employees indicating that engineers in China had access to US data between September 2021 and January 2022, at the very least. Despite a TikTok executive’s sworn testimony in an October 2021 Senate hearing that a “world-renowned, US-based security team” decides who gets access to this data, nine statements by eight different employees describe situations where US employees had to turn to their colleagues in China to determine how US user data was flowing. US staff did not have permission or knowledge of how to access the data on their own, according to the tapes.

Like the proverbial stopped clock being right twice a day, the Trump administration was right on this one. TikTok should have been — and still should be — banned in the U.S. unless and until ByteDance sells the whole thing to a western company. It’s as bonkers today to let China run a popular media service as it would have been to allow the Soviet Union to run a U.S. TV network during the Cold War.

Monday, 20 June 2022