Concerns raised over TikTok’s US data handling

Amidst claims of continued collaboration between TikTok’s US operations and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, questions arise regarding the effectiveness of Project Texas in securing user data independence.

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TikTok’s efforts to separate its US operations and user data from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, have been scrutinised, as the following reports allege continued collaboration between the two entities. Despite implementing Project Texas, which aimed to enhance data security and independence, former employees claim that data-sharing practices persisted, with US user data being regularly sent to ByteDance executives in China.

Under Project Texas, US user data was supposed to be stored on Oracle’s cloud infrastructure. Still, former employees suggest that the reality differed, with a ‘stealth chain of command’ enabling continued collaboration between US-based staff and ByteDance executives. Allegations of ongoing control from ByteDance’s top management raise questions about TikTok’s claimed independence.

These revelations have significant implications, particularly amidst Congressional efforts to pressure ByteDance to sell TikTok. The House has already passed a bill threatening to ban TikTok unless it severs ties with its parent company. However, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew maintains the company’s autonomy, emphasising that American entities store and oversee American data.

Why does it matter?

While some former employees downplay concerns about TikTok’s connections to ByteDance, recent reports suggest that Project Texas may not have effectively insulated US operations from Chinese influence. As scrutiny intensifies, TikTok faces renewed scrutiny over its data practices and the extent of its independence from ByteDance.