The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max in this photo illustration in Warsaw, Poland on September 29, 2020. The TikTok app will be banned from US app stores from Sunday unless president Donald Trump approves a last-minute deal between US tech firm Oracle and TikTok owner ByteDance. US authorities say the Chinese video sharing app threaten national security and could pass on user data to China. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

TikTok exec refuses to tell whether Chinese government can access data of American users

A TikTok exec has refused to tell members of Congress whether or not the Chinese government could access the data of American users.

Allowed to Share Data with Corporate Affiliates

TikTok exec refuses to tell whether Chinese government can access data of American users
Image Credits: ByteDance

TikTok Head of US Public Policy, Michael Beckerman, repeatedly dodged questions from Sen. Ted Cruz regarding how the platform’s ties with Beijing can affect American users, during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing.

As per TikTik’s privacy policy, the Chinese tech giant owns full rights to share user data with “corporate affiliates,” and Beckerman continuously refused to divulge whether Beijing ByteDance Technology is included in those affiliates. The latter is a sister company of the video-sharing platform, and at least one official of the Chinese Communist Party is a board member.

Controlled by China?

This comes amid growing suspicions that TikTok is affiliated with the Chinese government at least in part, even as the company has been vehemently denying such allegations. Nevertheless, it has long been censoring content that criticizes the Communist Party, such as videos highlighting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. However, it had announced a change to its policies in 2019, so as to allow users to express their thoughts more freely.

But with its parent company ByteDance being located in China (whose government is known to often force firms to share user data) itself, it might not be too surprising if it was indeed handing over any data demanded by the country on grounds of national security.

During the hearing, the Head of Public Policy also denied claims that TikTok has censored content that is critical of China’s mass imprisonment of Uyghur Muslims, who happen to be a minority community in the country’s Xinjiang province. His British counterpart had, however, admitted last year that there have been some “incidents” where content that specifically pertained to the Uighur (a variation of “Uyghur”) had actually not been allowed on the platform.

Gotcha Questions and Biometric Data

After the hearing, Sen. Cruz took a jab at Beckerman, saying that he dodged questions “more than any witness” he had ever seen. Beckerman meanwhile, said that he was constantly being subjected to “gotcha questions” at the hands of the Senator.

Other members of Congress too, pointed out the fact that TikTok requires users to agree to having their biometric data collected. Earlier this month, ByteDance agreed to pay a total of $92 million to its American users whose biometric data had been shared with third parties. It also reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for illegally collecting data from children.


Source: The Washington Free Beacon