TikTok CEO Addresses US Security Concern

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew has provided answers to questions from nine Republican Senators who recently raised concerns about TikTok’s privacy data following a related BuzzFeed News investigation.

The letter does not clarify whether US user data has been or can be accessed by TikTok China-based employees but does answer some of the questions posed by the senators.

Notably, the missive states that TikTok has never been asked by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to provide US user data.

“We have not been asked for such data from the CCP. We have not provided U.S. user data to the CCP, nor would we if asked,” reads the letter.

Additionally, Chew called the BuzzFeed article “allegations and insinuations” incorrect and not supported by facts. 

“We appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight by answering your questions.”

For context, the BuzzFeed investigation claims to have listened to leaked audio of more than 80 internal TikTok meetings, some of which openly discussed ‘Project Texas,’ a classified initiative designed to stop engineers in China from retrieving the data.

According to Chew, however, Project Texas would simply be a program intended to strengthen the company’s data security posture.

“The broad goal for Project Texas is to help build trust with users and key stakeholders by improving our systems and controls, but it is also to make substantive progress toward compliance with a final agreement with the U.S. Government that will fully safeguard user data and U.S. national security interests,” reads the letter.

The TikTok executive continued by claiming that the company did not speak publicly about these plans “out of respect” for the confidentiality of the engagement with the US Government.

“Circumstances now require that we share some of that information publicly to clear up the errors and misconceptions in the article and some ongoing concerns related to other aspects of our business,” Chew wrote.

“As we recently reported, we now store 100% of U.S. user data by default in the Oracle cloud environment, and we are working with Oracle on new, advanced data security controls that we hope to finalize in the near future.”

The news comes hours after FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr and TikTok Americas policy executive Michael Beckerman debated on CNN whether TikTok posed a national security threat or not.

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