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Tiktok CEO: App has never shared US data with Chinese government

WASHINGTON: TikTok’s CEO will tell lawmakers that the Chinese-owned short video app, which has over 150 million American users, has never and will never share US user data with the Chinese government, despite growing US national security concerns.

“TikTok has never shared or been asked to share US user data with the Chinese government.” “Neither would TikTok honor such a request if it were ever made,” CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify on Thursday, according to written testimony posted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

He also stated that ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, is not owned or controlled by any government or state entity. “Let me state unequivocally: ByteDance is not a Chinese or any other country’s agent,” Chew will tell the committee.

TikTok’s detractors are concerned that the app’s US user data will be passed on to China’s government, prompting increased calls from US lawmakers to ban the app. TikTok said last week that the Biden administration demanded that its Chinese owners divest their stake in the app or face a US ban.

“Bans should only be used when there are no other options.” “However, we do have an alternative,” Chew testified.

TikTok’s testimony before Congress on Thursday comes amid growing calls for the short video app to be banned across the United States, and it is one of the Chinese company’s most detailed rebuttals to the accusations leveled against it.

TikTok claims to have spent more than $1.5 billion on “rigorous data security efforts” under the guise of “Project Texas,” and has attempted to persuade lawmakers and the Biden administration to support the plan.

The powerful national security body, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), had unanimously recommended that ByteDance divest TikTok in 2020.

Under pressure from then-President Trump, ByteDance attempted unsuccessfully in late 2020 to finalize a deal with Walmart and Oracle to transfer TikTok’s US assets into a new entity, and Trump then lost court battles to ban TikTok.

The video app has been in talks with CFIUS for more than two years, hoping to reach an agreement on protecting US user data.

TikTok has established a special-purpose subsidiary, TikTok US Data Security (USDS), with nearly 1,500 full-time employees, and has contracted with Oracle (ORCL.N) to store TikTok’s US user data.

According to Chew’s testimony, “Oracle has already begun inspecting TikTok’s source code and will have unprecedented access to the related algorithms and data models.”

When the process is finished, “all protected US data will be under the protection of US law and under the control of the US-led security team,” according to Chew. There is no way for the Chinese government to gain access to it or compel access to it under this structure.”

After routing new US data to the Oracle Cloud last year, the company said it would begin deleting US user-protected data in data centers in Virginia and Singapore this month. According to Chew’s testimony, this process is expected to be completed later this year.

TikTok announced on Monday that more than 150 million people in the United States use the app on a monthly basis, up from 100 million in 2020. According to Chew’s testimony, the average user today is an adult well past college age.

“While users in the United States account for 10% of our global community, their voice accounts for 25% of total views worldwide,” Chew testifies.

Chew claims that current versions of the app do not collect precise or approximate GPS data from users in the United States.

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