TikTok is currently the fastest-growing social network, but is repeatedly criticized. As now leaked audio files of the operator Bytedance reveal, the network has access to all user data of customers from the USA.
TikTok user data can be viewed by the operator
“Everything can be seen in China” said a member from the “Trust and Safety” department in a meeting from September 2021, according to leaked audio recordings obtained by Buzzfeed News magazine and others.
More than 80 records have now been published there, containing minutes from company meetings between September 2021 and January 2022, and do not cast a good light on TikTok operator Bytedance.
TikTok has been repeatedly criticized for years. Among other things, because in March 2022 in Germany proven word filters were used to suppress certain comments. In February 2021, even the European Consumer Federation took action against TikTok.
Master admins with access to all user data
The report goes on to say that at TikTok there are so-called master admins to have “access to everything.” This contradicts all statements for which TikTok had to answer to a US court in October 2021.
However, the report only mentions data for US citizens. However, it is more likely that TikTok can read all user data of all members worldwide.
When asked, TikTok spokeswoman Maureen Shanahan replied in a short statement that they know they are among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint and “aim to eradicate any doubts about the security of US user data”.
That’s why they hire experts who work continuously to validate the security standards they impose and bring in respected, independent third parties to test those standards, he said.
TikTok has been the focus of government scrutiny in the U.S. since 2019, when it was still under President-elect Donald Trump. In 2020, Trump even wanted to ban the platform completely, but as we know, nothing came of it.
TikTok data storage in the U.S.: Project Texas launched
Under the code name Project Texas, TikTok plans to store the data of US users with the help of cloud provider Oracle and no longer send it to China. Here, user data such as date of birth, phone number and more would be made available only to U.S. employees of Orcale in Texas through CFIUS.
Until now, according to a statement from TikTok, the data was already stored in the U.S. and Singapore. But what influence Bytedance’s Chinese headquarters can exert over its U.S. divisions is uncertain.
In a blog post, TikTok had announced on June 17 that it had changed the “default storage location for U.S. user data”and that “100 percent of U.S. user traffic is routed from Oracle Cloud infrastructure.”
Further, another audio file obtained by Buzzfeed News states that the United States Technical Services (USTS) team that TikTok hired for Project Texas operates independently of Bytedance.
Not just anyone could join the team, he said. “Chinese nationals are not allowed to join,” the statement said. Still, the USTS team would have to report to Bytedance headquarters in China, which also provides all instructions to the U.S. team, according to another employee’s statement from January 2022.