TikTok is once again under fire for its privacy policies, with leaked meeting recordings showing the company is reneging on a major promise.
Leaked recordings of some 80 internal TikTok meetings have once again blown the lid off TikTok’s privacy claims, showing the company’s engineers in China had access to US user data at least as recently as January 2022.
“Everything is seen in China,” said a member of TikTok’s Trust and Safety department in a September 2021 meeting, according to BuzzFeed News, the outlet that broke the story.
TikTok has been the social media star of the last couple of years, becoming one of China’s biggest tech hits on explosive growth. Despite its growth, the platform has consistently come under scrutiny for its privacy practices. The company has run afoul of EU privacy laws, been accused of violating child privacy on multiple occasions, found sending job applicant data to China, and encouraged its moderators to censor content from “users deemed too ugly, poor, or disabled for the platform.”
Amazingly, through all of this, the company had maintained that it does not share US user data with China, even swearing in testimony before a Senate hearing that it was only a US team that decided where US user data was handled. According to BuzzFeed News, nothing could be further from the truth.
After reviewing the meeting records, BuzzFeed News found “14 statements from nine different TikTok employees indicating that engineers in China had access to US data between September 2021 and January 2022, at the very least.”
Despite the TikTok executive’s Senate testimony about the “world-renowned, US-based security team” that decided how data was handled, the meeting recordings show that US staff had neither the know-how or the permission to handle the data on their own, forcing them to turn to their counterparts in China.
This latest revelation will likely lead to further investigations and possible sanctions against the company, especially since the evidence suggests the company’s executive lied to the Senate.
While TikTok narrowly managed to avoid being banned from the US or forced to sell its US assets, under the Trump administration, its luck may be on the verge of running out.