HomeAttacks on U.S.Former Exec: China has "Supreme Access" to Data Held by ByteDance, TikTok

Former Exec: China has “Supreme Access” to Data Held by ByteDance, TikTok

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A former employee of ByteDance alleges that China’s Communist Party had “supreme access” to all data held by the company, including servers in the United States. These allegations come at a time when TikTok and its content are under intense scrutiny in the US and other Western nations regarding the level of control Beijing can exert over the popular social media app.

Yintao “Roger” Yu, who worked as the head of engineering for ByteDance’s US operations from 2017 to 2018, Chinese Communist Party had a dedicated office within the company, which monitored ByteDance and guided its adherence to core Communist values. The lawsuit alleges that this committee had access to all company data, including data stored in the United States.

Yu further claims that ByteDance made user data accessible to China’s Communist Party through a backdoor channel, regardless of the data’s location. He also states that he observed ByteDance being responsive to the CCP’s requests to share, elevate, or remove content, describing the company as a “useful propaganda tool” for Beijing’s leaders.

The US government has expressed apprehension about the Chinese government potentially leveraging TikTok’s vast data collected from the 150 million monthly users in the United States. Although security experts have not provided public evidence of Chinese government spying through TikTok, concerns persist. The Biden administration has threatened a nationwide ban on TikTok unless its Chinese owners sell their stakes in the company, highlighting the growing tensions between the two countries.

The allegations made by the former ByteDance employee in the lawsuit raise concerns about China’s access to the personal data of Americans through TikTok. While ByteDance denies these allegations and TikTok has implemented measures to protect user data, the future of TikTok’s existence in the US remains uncertain as lawmakers consider potential actions that could impact the app’s nationwide operation. The debate surrounding TikTok continues to revolve around national security and data privacy concerns tied to its Chinese ownership.

A couple of months ago, TikTok announced new measures aimed at strengthening the protection of user data in Europe. These measures include implementing enhanced controls on access to user data through the introduction of security gateways. These gateways will regulate employee access to European TikTok user data and oversee data transfers outside of Europe. TikTok has emphasized that any data access will comply with relevant data protection laws and will undergo thorough security checks conducted by a third-party European security company.

Additionally, TikTok plans to employ advanced technologies to safeguard user information, including the pseudonymisation of personal data to prevent individual identification without additional information. To further bolster data protection, the company will establish two new data centers in Ireland and Norway to store European user data locally, starting from this year. These initiatives are part of TikTok’s commitment to enhancing privacy measures and ensuring compliance with data protection regulations in Europe.

In this author’s opinion, their efforts are wasted, the access by Chinese intelligence services has already been assured. TikTok is under the control of the Chinese government, and these measures would not have been approved without having backdoor access already built in. It’s done

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