US lawmakers are finally getting the real picture from TikTok, as the company refuses to commit to keeping US data out of China.
TikTok has stumbled from one privacy scandal to another, earning an attempted ban by the Trump administration. Although those efforts did not come to fruition, the company’s latest scandal involves how US user data is handled and whether Beijing has access to it. In testimony to US lawmakers Wednesday, a TikTok executive repeatedly refused to commit to keeping US data out of China, according to CNN.
The latest issue stems from TikTok’s previous assurances that it had a US team in place to handle US user data, even testifying to Congress to that effect. Those assurances were blown away when leaked meeting recordings showed the company’s US team had neither the authority or the ability to handle many matters and had to rely on colleagues in China to handle the data.
When testifying before Congress Wednesday, the company’s executives were finally more open about US data handling, refusing to make any commitments about keeping it out of China.
“Will TikTok commit to cutting off all data and data flows to China, China-based TikTok employees, ByteDance employees, or any other party in China that might have the capability to access information on US users?” Sen. Rob Portman asked.
“Again, we take this incredibly seriously in terms of upholding trust with US citizens and ensuring the safety of US user data,” TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas said. “As it relates to access and controls, we are going to be going above and beyond in leading initiative efforts with our partner, Oracle, and also to the satisfaction of the US government through our work with [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States], which we do hope to share more information on.”
When Portman again pressed Pappas to commit to “cutting off all data and metadata flows to China,” Pappas simply said that “our final agreement with the US government will satisfy all national security concerns.”