TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas refused to commit to stopping the transfer of US data to China.
During testimony in front of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Pappas was asked by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) if the company would 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?”
Pappas repeatedly refused to answer the question – instead deflecting with a promise that the outcome of the company’s negotiations with the Biden administration would “satisfy all national security concerns,” Metro reports.
She assured lawmakers that TikTok does not operate in China, even though it had an office there.
TikTok is essentially a Chinese company owned by ByteDance, whose founder is Chinese, with offices in China.
Chinese national security law dictates that companies located there must cooperate with data requests from the government. This has gotten TikTok in trouble in the US after an American communications regulator official recently called on Apple and Google to ban the app over ‘national security’ concerns. -Metro.uk
Pappas did confirm that its Chinese employees do have access to US user data, but that the company would “under no circumstances … give that data to China,” and denied that TikTok is in no way influenced by the Chinese government.
The company came under fire after BuzzFeed reported in June that 14 statements made by nine different TikTok employees indicated “engineers in China had access to U.S. data between September 2021 and January 2022, at the very least,” resulting in Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ted Cruz (R-FL) and eight other colleagues calling for TikTok execs to testify.
Further scrutiny was cast on TikTok in late August, when the NYT reported that TikTik’s in-app browser can track users’ keystrokes.
When asked about the BuzzFeed article, Pappas said the allegations “were not found.” She also denied the existence of a “Beijing-based engineer as a “Master Admin” who has “access to everything”” as BuzzFeed claimed. She told Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) that the entire contents of the BuzzFeed article were untrue.
Sen. Josh Hawley grills TikTok’s chief operating officer Vanessa Pappas over TikTok’s links to the Chinese Communist Party. pic.twitter.com/EkVf496JlV
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) September 14, 2022
“Again, we take this incredibly seriously in terms of upholding trust with US citizens and ensuring the safety of US user data,” she 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.”
TikTok essentially reiterated the same talking points in a Wednesday tweet, stating that the company is “making progress toward a final agreement with the U.S. government to further safeguard U.S. user data and address national security interests.”
4/ We’re making progress toward a final agreement with the U.S. government to further safeguard U.S. user data and address national security interests. Last month, we confirmed we’re working to have our content moderation and recommendation models vetted and validated by Oracle.
— TikTokComms (@TikTokComms) September 14, 2022
TikTok is owned by Bytedance, a Beijing-based company that is legally domiciled in the Cayman Islands. It has around 80 million users in the US.
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