TikTok Says Some China-Based Employees Can Access U.S. User Data, Outlines Plan for Better Safeguards

TikTok is working on a plan to better safeguard the data of its U.S. users, the company said in an open letter [PDF] to several U.S. Senators that have expressed concern that the China-based app is a national security risk.

tiktok logo
Shared by The New York Times, the letter outlines a multi-pronged undertaking called "Project Texas," aimed at strengthening data security. TikTok says that 100 percent of U.S. user data is stored in an Oracle cloud environment located in the U.S., and it is working with Oracle on more advanced data security controls that will be finalized "in the near future."

TikTok is planning to delete U.S. data from its servers and store information with Oracle exclusively. The company says all data sharing outside of the United States will be pursuant to "protocols and terms approved by the U.S. government."

The broad goal for Project Texas is to help build trust with users and key stakeholders by improving our systems and controls, but it is also to make substantive progress toward compliance with a final agreement with the U.S. Government that will fully safeguard user data and U.S. national security interests. We have not spoken publicly about these plans out of respect for the confidentiality of the engagement with the U.S. Government, but circumstances now require that we share some of that information publicly to clear up the errors and misconceptions in the article and some ongoing concerns related to other aspects of our business.

Concerns over TikTok have heightened over the last two weeks following a BuzzFeed News report that suggested TikTok engineers in China had access to the data of U.S. users between September 2021 and January 2022. "Everything is seen in China," said one TikTok employee in recordings reviewed by BuzzFeed, with the recordings also referencing a "Master Admin" engineer in China who "has access to everything."

Given the concerns over U.S. data access, the United States Federal Communications Commission earlier this week asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores because of a "pattern of surreptitious data practices."

TikTok in its letter confirmed that some China-based employees are indeed able to access data from U.S. TikTok users, "subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls" overseen by a U.S.-based security team. TikTok says that it has an internal data classification system and approval process in place that assign levels of access based on the sensitivity of the data. It will work with the Biden Administration going forward to continue to limit data access.

In response to a question on why TikTok does not plan to block all U.S. user data from the view of employees in China, TikTok said that "certain China-based employees will have access to a narrow, non-sensitive set of TikTok U.S. user data" in order to ensure global interoperability. Employees will also be able to develop the TikTok video recommendation algorithm using U.S. data, though training of the algorithm will be limited to Oracle's servers.

TikTok promises that access will be "very limited" and will not include "private TikTok U.S. user information." TikTok says that it has not been asked to provide data to the Chinese government, and would not provide data if the CCP requested information.

Apple and Google have not as of yet responded to the FCC's request to remove the TikTok app from their app stores.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tag: TikTok

Top Rated Comments

Think|Different Avatar
7 weeks ago
Nope. You simply cannot trust them.
Score: 52 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Villarrealadrian Avatar
7 weeks ago
Get it off the stores already!
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
antiprotest Avatar
7 weeks ago

TikTok says that it has not been asked to provide data to the Chinese government, and would not provide data if the CCP requested information.
Wait, really? Even Apple would comply like a good little ?.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Hastings101 Avatar
7 weeks ago
Should have let Trump ban it. Add it to the list of national security concerns like ZTE, Huawei, and all the others
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jz0309 Avatar
7 weeks ago
what a surprise ...
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kesenwangs Avatar
7 weeks ago

That's not true.

Apple is adhering to local laws in terms of hosting Chinese data within China, but that's not the same thing as just freely handing over data at CCP's request.
This response is also simply not true. Apple has previously removed encryption technology ('https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/17/technology/apple-china-censorship-data.amp.html') used elsewhere because it wouldn’t be allowed in China, so there’s not really a need to “freely hand over data” at the CCP’s request anyways. No business entity has a choice in this matter.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

tiktok logo

FCC Commissioner Calls for Apple and Google to Ban TikTok Over 'Surreptitious' Data Practices

Wednesday June 29, 2022 3:48 am PDT by
The Federal Communications Commission has asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores because of its "pattern of surreptitious data practices," reports TechCrunch. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr is said to have written to Apple and Google on Tuesday to make the request, which comes after a BuzzFeed News report last week claimed TikTok staff in China have had access to U.S....
google app safety

Google Launches Privacy Labels for Google Play Apps

Tuesday April 26, 2022 9:08 am PDT by
Google today followed in Apple's footsteps and launched a version of privacy labels for its own apps, with the aim of providing Google Play users with more information about the data that the apps they download are collecting. First announced back in May 2021, Google's "Data safety" section will require developers to provide information about how their apps collect, share, and secure user...
pegatron logo small

Apple Supplier Pegatron Denies Reports of China Blocking Shipments

Friday August 5, 2022 3:00 am PDT by
Apple supplier Pegatron has denied media reports claiming shipments to and from its factories in China were being held for scrutiny by Chinese customs officials, following a Pegatron executive's meeting with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (via DigiTimes). In a filing with the Taiwan Stock Exchange, the company indicated that iPhone production at its China-based sites is continuing as normal ...
apple employee viral tiktok firing claim

Employee Claims Apple Has Threatened Termination Over Viral TikTok Video

Tuesday August 16, 2022 4:30 am PDT by
An Apple employee says that Apple, a company she has worked at for over six years, is threatening to fire her over a viral TikTok video she made where she provides basic, commonsense, and publicly available tips on what to do if your iPhone is stolen. The employee, Paris Campbell, has nearly half a million followers on TikTok, with over 17.7 million likes at the time of writing. Until a...
apple park sunset

Apple Requiring Employees to Return to Office 3x Per Week Starting on September 5

Monday August 15, 2022 3:37 pm PDT by
Apple today informed corporate employees that they must return to the office for three days starting the week of Monday, September 5, reports Bloomberg. Apple will require employees work in-person on Tuesday, Thursday, and a third day that will vary by team as part of a hybrid return-to-work plan. Apple initially planned to require employees to return to the office three days a week in May,...
towson maryland apple store

President Biden Praises Apple Employees in Maryland for Unionizing

Monday June 20, 2022 10:07 am PDT by
U.S. President Joe Biden this morning said that he was "proud" of Apple employees in Maryland who voted to unionize over the weekend, reports Reuters. Though other Apple retail locations have been discussing unionization, the Maryland employees are the first Apple retail workers to unionize in the United States. "Workers have a right to determine under what condition they are going to work...
generic tracking prompt orange

U.S. Senators Urge FTC to Investigate Apple for 'Transforming Online Advertising Into an Intense System of Surveillance'

Friday June 24, 2022 8:19 am PDT by
In a letter sent to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chair Lina Khan today, four U.S. legislators said the FTC should "investigate Apple and Google's role in transforming online advertising into an intense system of surveillance," according to The Wall Street Journal. Apple and Google "knowingly facilitated harmful practices by building advertising-specific tracking IDs into their mobile...
precision finding airtag design session

iOS 16 Introduces New Capabilities for Accessories With U1 Chip Integration

Wednesday July 20, 2022 7:05 am PDT by
As part of WWDC last month, Apple announced that iOS 16 will allow third-party accessories with U1 chip integration to interact with iPhone apps even when the app is running in the background, enabling new "hands-free user experiences." In a press release today, chipmaker Qorvo said this new functionality will allow U1-enabled accessories to work in tandem with iOS 16 apps to trigger...

Popular Stories

airpods pro black background

AirPods Pro 2: Five New Features and Improvements to Expect

Sunday August 14, 2022 3:28 pm PDT by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro are finally nearing launch, with a release expected later this year. If you are considering upgrading to the new AirPods Pro once they are released, keep reading for a list of five new features to expect. In addition to all-new features, the second-generation AirPods Pro will likely adopt some features added to the standard AirPods last year. H2 Chip ...
10th Generation iPad Render

10th-Generation iPad With Major Design Changes Reportedly in Production Ahead of September Launch

Monday August 15, 2022 8:02 pm PDT by
Apple's rumored 10th-generation iPad is currently in production and will feature "major" design changes, according to a report from Taiwanese website DigiTimes. A mockup of the potential 10th-generation iPad design by Renders By Shailesh The report did not provide any specific details about the 10th-generation iPad's new design, but rumors suggest the device will feature a larger 10.5-inch...
ios 16 lock screen feature2

Apple Seeds Sixth Betas of iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Monday August 15, 2022 10:04 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the sixth betas of upcoming iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 updates to developers for testing purposes, with the updates coming a week after Apple released the fifth developer betas. Registered developers can download the iOS and iPadOS 16 profiles from the Apple Developer Center, and once installed, the betas will be available over the air. iOS 16 introduces a revamped Lock...
iPhone 14 Dummies 1 Feature

Everything Rumored for Apple's September Event: iPhone 14, Apple Watch Pro and More

Friday August 12, 2022 2:34 pm PDT by
There's just about a month to go until Apple holds its annual September event focusing on new iPhone and Apple Watch models. We thought we'd take a quick look at everything that's rumored for Apple's September event to give MacRumors readers a rundown on what to expect when the first fall event rolls around. iPhone 14 The iPhone 14 can probably be described more as an "iPhone 13S" because...
apple watch se

Apple Watch SE vs. Apple Watch Series 8: New Features to Expect If You've Waited to Upgrade

Monday August 15, 2022 2:44 am PDT by
The Apple Watch SE was announced in September 2020 and has been a popular Apple Watch model for customers looking for their first smartwatch or an affordable Apple Watch. Apple Watch SE customers may be wondering, however, what's in store for them with the upcoming Apple Watch Series 8 and what new features they can expect. Continue reading to find out. Apple Watch SE vs. Apple Watch Series ...
Apple Watch Series 3 v 8 1

Apple Watch Series 3 vs. Apple Watch Series 8: 20 Major New Features and Changes for Customers Upgrading

Tuesday August 16, 2022 6:52 am PDT by
It's crazy to think about, but next month will mark five years since Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 3. Despite being a severely antiquated smartwatch, the Series 3 has remained at the bottom of Apple's lineup for $199. Suppose you're still holding on to your Apple Watch Series 3. In that case, this article will list all the major new features and changes you'll get if you decide to...
iPhone 14 Pro Lineup Feature Purple

Apple Planning to Hold iPhone 14 Event on September 7

Wednesday August 17, 2022 9:51 am PDT by
Apple is aiming to hold its first fall event on Wednesday, September 7, reports Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The event will focus on the iPhone 14 models and the Apple Watch Series 8. The standard iPhone 14 models are expected to get few changes, but the iPhone 14 Pro models will include updated camera technology, the removal of the notch in favor of a pill-shaped and hole-punch cutout, an A16...