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In response to an inquiry from lawmakers, TikTok countered recent reports about its data practices and has shared a number of details about how it limits Chinese access to user data in the U.S.
Following a BuzzFeed report that Chinese ByteDance engineers had sweeping access to U.S. user data for a period of time, fourteen Republican lawmakers and a Republican commissioner from the FCC penned various demanding TikTok provide answers about its privacy and security.
Amid calls for a ban, TikTok officially responded on Thursday in a letter dated June 30. In the letter, obtained by The New York Times, the company pushed back on the BuzzFeed report, saying that its claims were “incorrect” and “not supported by facts.” It also gave details about how it protects user data in the U.S.
“We’re proud to be able to serve a global community of more than a billion people who use TikTok to creatively express themselves and be entertained,” the company wrote. “We know we are among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of U.S. user data.”
For example, TikTok acknowledged that China-based employees may have access to U.S. user data, but only after being subject to a “series of robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols overseen by our U.S.-based security team.”
The company also says it has long stored U.S. user data on servers in both the U.S. and Singapore. It added that it has not been asked by Chinese government officials for any U.S. user data, and stated that it wouldn’t provide it comply with orders to do so.
Additionally, TikTok shared details about an internal endeavor dubbed “Project Texas” that seeks to “help build trust with users and key stakeholders.” The project is focused on evaluating and revising TikTok internal policies and operational controls.
This isn’t the first time that the U.S. government has scrutinized TikTok. Back in 2020, the Trump Administration attempted to get ByteDance to sell TikTok to a U.S.-based firm under threat of a total ban in the country.
Since then, however, plans to force a sale of TikTok to U.S. companies appears to have fizzled out under President Joe Biden.