Despite its claims that U.S. user data is stored locally, new data reveals that TikTok does indeed store some American data on servers in China.
- TikTok content creators’ personal information—like Social Security numbers and tax IDs—may not be as secure as the influencers thought.
- New reports from Forbes indicate that TikTok has stored users’ personal financial information on servers in China where they are accessible to employees.
- TikTok used tools and databases from its parent company ByteDance to pay its creators who earn money through the app.
- Similar tools from the Beijing-based parent company are used to pay vendors and small businesses who work alongside TikTok.
- Records obtained by Forbes indicate that sensitive financial and personal information from these third parties is stored in China, leading some to ask how much access China-based employees have to this information.
Why it’s news
TikTok has been under fire from U.S. lawmakers as many question the privacy and security of the video-sharing social-media app. Earlier this year, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said in a testimony before Congress that U.S. user data was stored on users outside of China.
“American data has always been stored in Virginia and Singapore in the past, and access of this is on an as-required basis by our engineers globally,” Chew said while under oath during a committee hearing.
In response to Forbes findings, TikTok spokesman Alex Haurek says, “We remain confident in the accuracy of Shou’s testimony.” Neither company has responded to questions about how accessible U.S. tax information is to China-based employees.
After pressure from U.S. lawmakers, TikTok announced Project Texas—a plan to ensure all U.S. user data was stored on Oracle servers in Texas. This plan had been central to TikTok’s negotiations with the Biden administration. TikTok representatives offered this alternative data-storage plan to keep the app in the U.S. Some lawmakers have called for it to be banned in the U.S. outright. Many states and the U.S. federal government have banned the app on government devices.
However, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke out against the popular social-media app last year. Since then, the Biden administration has taken a more aggressive approach, insisting that TikTok separate from ByteDance or face a potential nationwide ban.