Audio of more than 80 internal meetings of popular social media app TikTok has been leaked, exposing China-based TikTok employees who repeatedly access US user data, according to findings from a BuzzFeed report. News. TikTok said Friday that Oracle would store all of its US user data, in a bid to allay fears about its safety in the hands of a ByteDance-owned platform in China.
“We will continue to push our goal of limiting the number of employees who have access to user data and the scenarios in which data access is enabled,” TikTok chief information security officer Roland Cloutier said in a statement. blog post featured by the company.
The announcement came as the popular short-video-sharing service defended itself against concerns about the ability of engineers in China to access US users’ information that is not public.
According to BuzzFeed News, citing audio leaks from more than 80 internal TIC Tac (owned by ByteDance) meetings, engineers in China had access to US data between September 2021 and January 2022.
“US (TikTok) personnel did not have permission or did not know how to access the data on their own,” according to the audio files.
“Everything shows in China,” said a member of TikTok’s Trust and Safety department during a meeting in September 2021.
In another meeting, a TikTok executive called a Beijing-based engineer a “master admin” who “has access to everything”.
The audio tapes suggest the company may have “misled lawmakers, its users, and the public by downplaying the fact that data stored in the United States could still be accessed by employees in China.”
A TikTok spokesperson said the company aims to remove any doubts about the security of US users’ data.
“That’s why we engage experts in their fields, continually work to validate our security standards and engage independent, reputable third parties to test our defenses,” the spokesperson said in the report released Friday.
In 2020, then US President Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok over privacy and data security concerns that the Chinese government might use ByteDance to collect personal information about US users.
TikTok’s “data harvesting threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information,” Trump wrote in an executive order.
TikTok announced Friday that it has moved US user data to Oracle servers in the country.
In a blog post, the company said it had “changed the default storage location for US user data” to Oracle and that “100% of US user traffic” is now hosted by the cloud provider.
India had banned the short-video creation app, along with several other Chinese-owned apps, in 2020, citing national security concerns.
It’s common for some engineers at internet companies to have access to data, and TikTok told AFP it’s trying to minimize that kind of system privilege.
TikTok has been adamant that it has never handed over US user data to Chinese officials and would refuse if asked.
At the end of last year, TikTok revealed that it had one billion users worldwide.
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