Employees from the company behind the popular Chinese social media app TikTok repeatedly accessed non-public data of US users between September 2021 and January 2022.
Leaked audio from over 80 internal TikTok meetings at platform's owner ByteDance shows that China-based employees repeatedly accessed user data, a report by BuzzFeed revealed.
The leaked audio revealed that TikTok's employees discussed that 'everything is seen in China' even though the company promised the US Senate that US-based teams decide who gets access to American data.
TikTok has over 1 billion users worldwide, with over 80 million in the US alone. The platform's rising popularity in the US sparked security concerns over the platform's data use practices. Lawmakers and think-tankers fear China could use the social network to spy on the US population and the military.
Former US President Donald Trump floated the idea of outright banning TikTok in the US.
According to the report, audio tapes suggest that TikTok misled US officials and platform users with claims that the data is stored in the US and cannot be accessed by employees in China.
TikTok's head of public policy for the Americas, Michael Beckerman, became the company's first executive to appear before Congress. Reuters reported that he was pressed mostly by Republicans on worries regarding TikTok's stewardship of data of the app's users.
He was questioned whether TikTok could resist giving data to the Chinese government if the materials were to be demanded and insisted that the company does not share information with the Chinese authorities. Beckerman said that TikTok has "no affiliation" with Beijing ByteDance Technology.
On the same day BuzzFeed published the story on leaked audio recording, TikTok released a statement claiming that '100% of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.'
However, that does not guarantee that China-based staff will be unable to access data stored on servers owned by a US company.
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