A leaked report from inside TikTok meetings confirms that ByteDance employees accessed US users’ data more than once.
This is not the first time that the TikTok short video application has been accused of collecting and misusing customer data , but it was all based on studies or reports. Recorded meetings were leaked, and as we say, “a witness from her family testified!”
Relations between Tik Tok and the US government have always been tense, especially after Mark Zuckerberg attacked the Chinese platform more than once and raised question marks about the company’s handling of its users’ data and its impact on the country’s national security, and even funded awareness campaigns against its Chinese competitor.
But recently, relations began to gradually stabilize between the two parties, as Tik Tok announced on Friday, June 17, 2022 that it had 100% completed the process of transferring its American users’ data to servers owned by Oracle in the United States, which led to an end to the conflict. It went on for years, and constant threats to ban the app in the USA.
But it is clear that there is a party that benefits from the tension of these relations and does not wish to settle them, and although all fingers point to the invisible robot , it is too early to say for sure. But let’s just say that Tik Tok officials may get the worst luck award in the world, after a report was published containing leaked voices from inside meetings of the company confirming the possibility of accessing American user data repeatedly from China, and this was a few hours after the company announced the completion The process of transferring US users’ data to Oracle servers.
Leak of recorded meetings condemns the Chinese application and confirms the concerns of the United States of America
BuzzFeed has published a leaked report that includes an audio recording of more than 80 internal meetings held inside the company’s headquarters in China. These reports show that employees of ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, repeatedly gained access to the data of users residing in the United States of America.
Note: We cannot confirm or deny these leaks, but we will only talk about the most important things that came in those alleged reports, and what was mentioned in those recordings, according to the website that published them.
These recordings specifically include 14 statements made by 9 TikTok employees, and these statements confirm that ByteDance engineers in China have access to US data between September 2021 and January 2022, at least. While nine other statements said that US employees had no knowledge of how to access the data themselves, forcing them to turn to colleagues in China to determine how the data flowed.
The emergence of those tapes means putting TikTok in the wind, denying testimony given by the platform’s executives at a Senate hearing in October 2021 in which they asserted that access to data is limited to a “US-based security team” that decides who has access to that data.
Everything is seen in China
One of the sentences mentioned in the leaked TikTok meetings (September 2021 meeting)
In those leaked meetings, a number of employees identified himself as a “head manager who has access to everything” while a company data analyst allegedly told a colleague: “I took my instructions from the head office in Beijing.”
These recordings show that user data was accessed more than once in the previous period, exceeding those times that were reported, which confirms to us the challenges faced by the Chinese platform from attempts to separate its operations in the United States from the operations of the parent company in Beijing.
We know that we are among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of US user data. That’s why we hire experts in their fields, continually work to validate our security standards and bring in reputable independent third parties to test our defenses.
A statement by a Tik Tok spokesperson after these leaks appeared
Tik Tok is currently negotiating with the US cloud service provider Oracle on the amount of data that can be accessed, in a project called “Texas”, and this name comes from the city of Texas, in which TikTok will keep the protected private information of American users, such as phone numbers and birthdays , in a data center operated by the US company. This data can only be accessed by TikTok employees residing in the United States. What data is “protected” is still being negotiated, but the filings indicate that all public data, including users’ profiles and everything they post, will not be included.
I feel there are some backdoors to accessing user data in almost all of these tools
– Opinion of an external auditor hired to help TikTok shut down China’s access to sensitive information of US users
However, according to the report issued by “BuzzFeed News”, it cannot be trusted that the Chinese government will not force the “ByteDance” company that owns Tik Tok to hand over the data of American users, and this would not be excluded, as we have previously seen Chinese companies subject to the whims of the Chinese Communist Party, which By cracking down on domestic tech giants, in which case the Chinese company would only have to carry out Chinese government requests and provide the information as a form of “data espionage.”
Americans also fear that the Chinese government will force the company that owns TikTok to adjust the algorithms of the TikTok application, to suggest content that affects the minds and the way they think, as Senator Ted Cruz described it as “a Trojan horse that the Chinese Communist Party can use to influence what Americans see, hear and think.” It’s finally there.”
And despite TikTok’s previous statements via blogs and public statements that it stores virtually all of its users’ data in the United States with backups in Singapore, which means that this data is not subject to Chinese law, some experts believe that this will not address the fact that employees residing in China can access that data, and the physical location won’t make a difference as long as Chinese intelligence can access it.
Conclusion: Tik Tok is in an unenviable position
We are waiting for the US government’s response after the leaked TikTok meetings, while the owner avoided responding and was content with a public statement from TikTok. We believe that the American response will be strict if that report is proven to be true, and that banning the application may be an expected reaction, which will naturally lead to the collapse of the Chinese company, and the victory of Meta after its desperate attempt to outdo its fierce competitor, and if the ban is implemented, we believe that The European Union will also impose strict restrictions to ensure that users’ data is not misused by the Chinese government.