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The Chinese parent company of TikTok had access to American users’ data for months even while U.S. employees did not have access themselves, according to leaked audio.
The audio, obtained by BuzzFeed News, covers more than 80 internal meetings at TikTok between the months of September 2021 and January 2022. It showed that U.S. employees were not permitted to access user data and instead relied on Chinese employees to do so, according to BuzzFeed.
TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is required under Chinese law to share its data with the Chinese Communist Party whenever requested.
“As we’ve publicly stated, we’ve brought in world class internal and external security experts to help us strengthen our data security efforts. This is standard industry practice given the complexity of data security challenges,” TikTok said in a statement to Business Insider on Friday.
“In May, we created a new in-house department, U.S. Data Security (USDS), with US-based leadership, to provide a greater level of focus and governance on US data security. The creation of this organization is part of our ongoing effort and commitment to strengthen our data protection policies and protocols, further protect our users, and build confidence in our systems and controls,” the statement continued.
The video sharing app has faced heavy scrutiny from U.S. politicians and Republicans in particular for its Chinese roots.
Former President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning the app from the U.S. in 2020, but President Joe Biden prevented the ban from taking effect soon after entering office.
Chinese officials had access to Americans’ data on the Chinese-owned TikTok app for at least months between September 2021 and January 2022, according to leaked audio.