TikTok on the Spotlight for Possible Data Breach According to Leaked Audio

Tiktok is in the spotlight again for the wrong reasons. TikTok claims to keep its data in the United States rather than China. However, according to leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings, ByteDance personnel in China have obtained nonpublic data regarding US TikTok customers on many occasions. The tapes, which comprise 14 remarks from nine different TikTok workers, show that Chinese developers had access to US data.

According to the leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings, ByteDance workers in China have frequently accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users. This activity had prompted former President Donald Trump to threaten to ban the app.

 In a September 2021 meeting, a TikTok employee said, “Everything is seen in China.” In another September meeting, a director referred to one Beijing-based engineer as a “Master Admin” who “has access to everything.” (While many employees introduced themselves by name and title in the recordings, BuzzFeed News is not naming anyone to protect their privacy.)

TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan reacted to a comprehensive list of examples and queries concerning data access with a brief statement. “We recognize that we are one of the most closely watched platforms in terms of security, and we want to dispel any doubts about the safety of user data. That is why we recruit specialists in their disciplines to try to confirm our security standards regularly. We do this through third-party audits and test our defenses with credible, independent third parties.”

In 2019, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States began investigating the national security implications of TikTok’s collection of American data. In 2020, then-president Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok over concerns that China could use ByteDance to amass personal information about US TikTok users. TikTok has said it has never shared user data with the Chinese government and would not do so if asked.

Project Texas is crucial to a deal TikTok is now negotiating with Oracle and CFIUS, a cloud services provider. The definition of “protected” material is still being debated, but the recordings show that all public data would be excluded, including users’ public profiles and whatever they post.TikTok sent out a statement saying, “we continue to back up in our US and Singapore data centers, but we anticipate erasing US consumers’ private data from our data centers as we complete our efforts and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers in the US.”

But it does not address fears that China could use TikTok to influence Americans’ commercial, cultural, or political behavior. Senator Ted Cruz has called TikTok “a Trojan horse the Chinese Communist Party can use”. 

The risk is that the government could force ByteDance to collect and turn over information as a form of data espionage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.