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Latest Privacy Concerns Surrounding Tiktok

There are fresh data privacy concerns surrounding Tiktok, after a report by BuzzFeed has brought into question the validity of TikTok’s claim that they had started routing US users’ data to US-based servers, in partnership with Oracle. The report conducted by BuzzFeed alleges that TikTok employees in China continue to access US users’ data, and have done so over a span of several months from September 2021 to January 2022.

The information comes from recordings of internal meetings that BuzzFeed have obtained, where employees in the US spoke of needing to ask staff in China to access US user data, as they couldn’t access it themselves.

Everything is seen in China”- A member of TikTok’s trust and safety department.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance is based in China, and have faced criticism from privacy advocates for years around the data of US users being exposed to China. Former President Donald Trump tried to ban TikTok from operating in the US in 2020 due to these concerns, and attempted to force TikTok to separate their assets from ByteDance. As a result of this, TikTok put forward the idea of partnering with Oracle, and making them their ‘trusted technology partner’. After Joe Biden became president, this turned into something called ‘Project Texas’, after Oracle’s HQ being in Texas. The project involves TikTok’s data in the US being held by Oracle, with ByteDance being refrained from having access to it. The recent announcement of the partnership suggests this transition is underway.

“For more than a year, we’ve been working with Oracle on several measures as part of our commercial relationship to better safeguard our app, systems, and the security of US user data,” Albert Calamug, the head of TikTok’s US security and public policy writes. “Today, 100% of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.”

As well as Oracle’s servers in the US, TikTok will also hold back up data on servers in Singapore. However they will aim to eventually delete US users’ data from these servers and fully transition to Oracle cloud servers in the US. It's Important to note however that they have not provided information as to when this transition will take place. It’ll be an interesting story to keep an eye on over the coming months to see if there will be any additional attempts by the US government to alleviate the data privacy concerns by forcing TikTok to make changes to how they process US user data.