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TikTok is Still Sending American User Data to Chinese Parent Company: Report

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew. AP
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew. AP

By: Jason Cohen, Daily Caller News Foundation

TikTok continues to distribute data to its Beijing-based parent company ByteDance despite its purported efforts to protect American data, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

TikTok attempted to address concerns from lawmakers and public officials over its handling of Americans’ data by spending $1.5 billion on establishing an isolated unit to safeguard American data called Project Texas. However, managers within TikTok are telling employees to share data to ByteDance, bypassing authorized channels, according to current and previous employees as well as company records the WSJ saw.

This unauthorized sharing can encompass sensitive data like American users’ email addresses, birthdays and IP addresses, according to the WSJ.

Executives feel it is necessary to share the data supposedly protected by Project Texas to ByteDance because it controls the popular video app’s algorithm, individuals with knowledge of the unit told the WSJ. Project Texas’ managers occasionally direct employees to distribute data to fellow TikTok workers who are not part of the protected unit as well.

ByteDance’s Chinese staff update TikTok’s algorithm so often that Project Texas workers have difficulty keeping track of all the changes, individuals told the WSJ. Project Texas staff tasked with looking into TikTok’s code for indications of Chinese meddling have been overwhelmed and unable to complete the tasks.

Some TikTok employees are concerned that their ByteDance-owned devices are not protected, according to the WSJ. TikTok has committed to provide them with computers and software from Project Texas instead.

ByteDance has an internal Chinese Communist Party (CCP) committee and was founded by an individual who affirmed ByteDance is a “mouthpiece” for the CCP, according to a 2020 Justice Department legal filing.

A former TikTok employee, who spent six months working in TikTok’s Trust and Safety Division until early 2022, informed congressional investigators that Project Texas would not be sufficient to resolve data security issues, according to The Washington Post. It would take a “complete re-engineering” of how TikTok operates, he asserted, stating the company’s security issues leave American users vulnerable to ByteDance employees.

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

Related Story: TikTok Employees Raise Concern Over CCP Influence as China Execs Move In

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