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  06 Jul 2022, 10:26

US senators call for close look at TikTok

SAN FRANCISCO, July 6, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Leaders of the US Senate Intelligence
Committee on Tuesday called for an investigation into whether Chinese
officials are getting access to data about US users of video-snippet sharing
sensation TikTok.

In a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairwoman Lina Khan, the
senators urged her to scrutinize how well TikTok safeguards private data.

"We write in response to public reports that individuals in the People's
Republic of China have been accessing data on US users, in contravention of
several public representations," the letter said.

TikTok has consistently defended itself against such accusations, saying it
gives no data about US users to the Chinese government despite its parent
company, ByteDance, being based in China.

"We've talked openly about our work to limit access to user data across
regions, and in our letter to senators last week we were clear about our
progress in limiting access even further through our work with Oracle," a
TikTok spokesperson said in response to an AFP inquiry.

"As we've said repeatedly, TikTok has never shared US user data with the
Chinese government, nor would we if asked."

In response to earlier inquiries from US authorities, TikTok had indicated in
mid-June that all of its data on US-based users were now stored on US-based
servers operated by US company Oracle.

TikTok last week responded by letter to questions from nine Republican
senators about its data storage and access policies.

In that letter, TikTok confirmed claims made in a BuzzFeed article that
employees based in China had access to US users' data, but only within
"robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols" overseen
by the company's "U.S.-based security team."

TikTok officials also said that while ByteDance engineers could work on the
platform's algorithms, the new protocol ensures that they can only do so in
Oracle's computing environment, without extracting data from it.

The popular social media platform is currently being evaluated by the
Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an inter-agency
government review board that assesses risks of foreign investments on US
national security.

During his White House tenure, former president Donald Trump was concerned
about the security of the platform's data and tried to force ByteDance to
sell its subsidiary to Oracle.

He also issued executive orders to outright ban the service in the United
States, but those never came into force and were later revoked by his
successor, Joe Biden.

President Biden has nonetheless tasked his administration with measuring the
possible risks associated with foreign ownership of social media websites and
apps.

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