TikTok leader says work to secure U.S. data is on track despite growing pushback

TikTok is portraying its effort to secure U.S. user data as “on track” amid mounting criticism of its work and information that suggests the China-founded app previously had a cavalier attitude about sharing user’s data.

The social media firm’s push to sway Washington policymakers against banning its platform in the U.S. has involved heavily promoting its relationship with Oracle as a key reason for people to trust that it is successfully overhauling its data security approach.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said Tuesday that his platform’s plan, called “Project Texas,” to restructure its American operation is already well underway, including moving all U.S. data to Oracle cloud servers by default.

Mr. Chew said at the Qatar Economic Forum that Oracle has also begun its review of TikTok’s computer code. TikTok previously said Oracle would examine its code and vouch for an updated version of the app to major app stores including Apple and Google.

“It’s on track — Oracle and ourselves are working together with the U.S. government to finalize the details of Project Texas,” Mr. Chew said at the forum.

Mr. Chew’s remarks emphasizing the company’s data security efforts stand in contrast to public reporting and concerns raised by U.S. officials.

TikTok employees shared personally identifiable information of users on an internal messaging tool called Lark, made by TikTok’s China-founded parent company ByteDance, according to the New York Times. The data shared between 2019 and 2022 over Lark looked to include governmental identification, such as passports and driver’s licenses, as well as child sexual abuse material.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday but told the New York Times the information it reviewed was old and not indicative of how it secures data.

While Mr. Chew characterized his company’s work as cooperative with the U.S. government on Tuesday, several top Biden administration cyber officials have recently raised concerns about the app.

The leaders of the National Security Agency and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security have each expressed worries to lawmakers regarding how China may use the app, including to surveil and influence Americans.

U.S. policymakers harbor concerns that China’s policies of military-civil fusion compelling cooperation between business and government mean Americans’ data on TikTok, and accessible by ByteDance, are vulnerable to the Chinese Communist Party.

President Biden has made no final public determination about restricting TikTok’s operation in the U.S., and Congress is considering several proposals to empower him to implement a ban.

Source: WT