TikTok Confirms Complete Migration of US User Data to US-Based Systems
TikTok has recently announced the completion of its relocation of US user data to Oracle servers, ensuring that US data is kept apart from its Chinese parent company following years of attention and inquiry over the possibility of the platform being used as a surveillance tool by the Chinese government.
TikTok notes that its US user data is currently housed in data centers in both the United States and Singapore.
“Our Virginia data center includes physical and logical safety controls such as gated entry points, firewalls, and intrusion detection technologies. It’s also important to maintain backup data storage locations to guard against catastrophic scenarios where user data could be lost, and our data center in Singapore serves as the backup data storage location for our US users.”
However, as part of the deal with Oracle, US user information will now be kept only in the United States.
“For more than a year, we’ve been working with Oracle on several measures as part of our commercial relationship to better safeguard our app, systems, and the security of US user data. We’ve now reached a significant milestone in that work: we’ve changed the default storage location of US user data. Today, 100% of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.”
TikTok said it will continue to backup data in its US and Singapore data centers, but US user data will be removed from its own data centers shortly as part of a complete transition to Oracle cloud servers in the US.
The announcement comes as a result of a new report published today by BuzzFeed News, which claims that TikTok is still possibly disclosing US user data with Chinese authorities under data review methods specified by its parent company ByteDance.
According to BuzzFeed:
“According to leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings, China-based employees of ByteDance have repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users — exactly the type of behavior that inspired former president Donald Trump to threaten to ban the app in the United States.”
As per the BuzzFeed News report, China-based ByteDance engineers retrieved US user data countless times between September 2021 and January 2022.
This could call into question the sworn testimony from TikTok's head of US public policy, Michael Beckerman, who testified before a Congressional Hearing in October of 2021 and declared that TikTok did not exchange data with the Chinese government.
That might be technically correct in a way. However, these discoveries imply that TikTok may continue to share US user data with its Chinese parent company, which is bound by China's tough cybersecurity rules, wherein it would be required to provide such info with CCP officials on demand.
Although there is no indication that this has occurred, the new findings do show that TikTok's US team has been deceptive in its presentation of the current position regarding data sharing and exposure.
Perhaps now that TikTok user data has been fully transferred over to US-based data storage, such concerns will be assuaged, allowing TikTok to proceed with its rapid development unhindered.
However, it may expose the platform to additional regulatory reviews in the United States, potentially leading to new attempts to ban the app.
This is also somewhat dependent on the current diplomatic situation between the United States and China.
China has regularly contended with American authorities over its development into the South China Sea, resulting in several clashes with US-allied countries. China has also indirectly supported Russia's invasion of Ukraine while proceeding to provide military assistance to smaller Pacific nations in order to expand its worldwide influence.
All of these acts raise tensions with the United States, which is bad news for future business relations.
Because of the countries' mutual distrust, there is constant suspicion about Beijing's objectives, and this is why TikTok has become a prime focus for data security issues.
As a result, these recent disclosures might compel US authorities to re-examine TikTok, potentially endangering the company's US operations once more.
And you can anticipate that if the US decides to restrict the app (as India has done owing to its own disputes with the CCP), other regions would follow suit, which would be devastating for the app.