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TikTok Stored Americans’ Social Security Numbers in China: Report

(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Jason Cohen, Daily Caller News Foundation

TikTok has stored thousands of TikTok creators’ and businesses’ financial data such as Social Security numbers and tax IDs in China, according to records obtained by Forbes.

TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified in March that TikTok stores American information in Virginia and Singapore, but Forbes obtained data that shows the platform stored it in China. The creators and businesses gave their data to the company to receive payment from the platform and TikTok stored it on Chinese servers that employees can access, according to Forbes.

TikTok applies different tools and databases from ByteDance, its Beijing-based parent company, to process payments to creators and vendors who make money on the platform, according to Forbes. This includes many of TikTok’s top creators in the U.S. and Europe, according to Forbes.

Forbes obtained internal communications, audio recordings, videos, screenshots and documents labeled “Privileged and Confidential” and spoke to multiple sources familiar with the matter, according to Forbes.

“The American data has always been stored in Virginia and Singapore in the past,” Chew stated in his testimony in March. “And access of this is on an as-required basis by engineers globally.”

“We remain confident in the accuracy of Shou’s testimony,” a TikTok spokesperson told Forbes.

The Chinese government has stolen American financial information before including in 2017 when the country’s military hacked credit reporting agency Equifax, according to The New York Times. Bad actors can use Social Security numbers for identity theft.

“It could be just bad IT practice, it could be they felt like they had a legitimate business need,” former national security lawyer for the White House and CIA Bryan Cunningham told Forbes. “But whatever the nuance of that turns out to be … if you store information in [China], you better assume that the intelligence services can have it if they want it. They may not target you, but boy, on the face of it, it’s highly questionable.”

ByteDance has employees in China that use a moderation system including word lists designed to identify or restrict content related to a wide array of topics such as the Chinese government, trade between China and the U.S., the persecuted ethnic minority group Uyghurs, former President Donald Trump and TikTok competitor YouTube, according to internal company records obtained by Forbes. Although more than 50 of these lists contain “TikTok” in their title, the company told Forbes they had never applied them on their platform.

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

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