TikTok CEO: Video app has never shared US data with China

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will tell lawmakers the short video app has never, and would never, share U.S. user data with the Chinese government.
TikTok influencersTikTok has more than 150 million active users in the United States. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will appear on Thursday before the committee to testify on TikTok’s consumer privacy and data security practices, the platforms’ impact on kids, and its relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.

It will be Chew’s first appearance before a congressional committee. The hearing is titled “TikTok: How Congress Can Safeguard American Data Privacy and Protect Children from Online Harms.”

“TikTok has never shared, or received a request to share, U.S. user data with the Chinese government. Nor would TikTok honor such a request if one were ever made,” CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify, according to written testimony posted on Tuesday by the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.

TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is not owned or controlled by any government or state entity. “Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” Chew will say to the committee.

Some of the Americans and lawmakers think that TikTok video app would share its U.S. user data with China’s government. Last week, TikTok said the Joe Biden administration demanded that its Chinese owners divest their stake in the app or it could face a U.S. ban, Reuters news report said.

TikTok has said it has spent more than $1.5 billion on data security efforts under the name “Project Texas” and has tried to convince lawmakers and the Biden administration to support the plan.

In 2022, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a national security body, had recommended that ByteDance divest TikTok.

ByteDance in late 2020 unsuccessfully sought to finalize a deal with Walmart and Oracle to shift TikTok’s U.S. assets into a new entity under pressure from then-President Donald Trump.

The video app has spent more than two years in talks with CFIUS seeking to reach an agreement on protecting U.S. user data.

TikTok has formed a special-purpose subsidiary, TikTok U.S. Data Security (USDS) that currently has nearly 1,500 full-time employees and contracted with Oracle to store TikTok’s U.S. user data.

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

Chew said when the process is complete “all protected U.S. data will be under the protection of U.S. law and under the control of the U.S.-led security team. Under this structure, there is no way for the Chinese government to access it or compel access to it.”

The company said it had started this month to delete U.S. user protected data in data centers in Virginia and Singapore after it started routing new U.S. data to the Oracle Cloud last year. Chew’s testimony said it expects this process to be completed later this year.

Chew’s testimony says 60 percent of ByteDance is owned by global institutional investors including Blackrock, General Atlantic, and Sequoia, about 20 percent by the company’s founders, and about 20 percent owned by its employees including thousands of Americans.

TikTok said on Monday that more than 150 million people in the United States use TikTok on a monthly basis after saying in 2020 that 100 million Americans used the app.

“While users in the United States represent 10 percent of our global community, their voice accounts for 25 percent of the total views around the world,” Chew’s testimony says.

Chew says current versions of the app do not collect precise or approximate GPS information from U.S. users.