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TikTok Acknowledges Certain U.S. Data Stored in China, Defends Earlier Claims

(Photo by Olivier Anrigo/Getty Images for TikTok)
(Photo by Olivier Anrigo/Getty Images for TikTok)

By: Jason Cohen, Daily Caller News Foundation

Popular short video platform TikTok has admitted to U.S. lawmakers that sensitive data from some Americans is stored in China, according to a letter the company sent on Friday.

While TikTok acknowledged that American creator data is stored in China, it defended previous statements that claimed the company does not store “protected user data” outside the U.S., in the letter it sent in response to inquiries from Republican Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal. TikTok claimed that creators are not “typical users” as they seek to generate income on the platform, and said that it “stand[s] by the statements made by our company executives to Congress.”

“The American data has always been stored in Virginia and Singapore in the past,” TikTok CEO Shou Chew stated in his March testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. However, a Forbes investigation discovered that TikTok housed financial data from its largest American and European creators in China, spurring Blackburn and Blumenthal to send questions to the company

“We appreciate this meaningful opportunity to offer clarity,” TikTok stated, adding its testimony referred to “protected user data collected in the app—not creator data.”

Forbes’ investigation revealed that tax documents, social security information and other financial data have been housed in China and that TikTok uses its Beijing-based parent company ByteDance’s payment tools, according to Forbes.

Forbes’ investigation appeared to pertain to contracts and other documents related to U.S. creators, TikTok said in the letter on Friday. “TikTok has been clear that there are certain, limited exceptions to the definition of protected data.”

The exception to American data storage in the U.S., “is really for interoperability purposes to make sure that the business can still operate and American users are still getting the benefit of a global platform,” Chew said during his March testimony.

However, Chew also said, “Data is stored here on American soil by an American company.” Additionally, he admitted that “Chinese engineers do have access to global data.”

“TikTok’s response makes it crystal clear that Americans’ data is still exposed to Beijing’s draconian and pervasive spying regimes—despite the claims of TikTok’s misleading public relations campaign,” Senators Blackburn and Blumenthal told Forbes.

TikTok and ByteDance did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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