In his testimony earlier than the U.S. Congress this morning, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew mentioned the corporate plans to delete all U.S. consumer knowledge from firm servers by year-end. The dedication was shared as a part of Chew’s opening statements, which detailed the corporate’s initiative often called Venture Texas. The plan includes the relocation of U.S. consumer knowledge to Oracle servers based mostly within the U.S. the place the information would then be overseen by American personnel.
The plan is one a part of TikTok’s bigger agenda to cease the favored video leisure app from being banned by the U.S. authorities over nationwide safety considerations. The corporate additionally goals to persuade Congress that it has a lot of protections included in its app designed to maintain youthful customers secure, and is closely relied on by each U.S.-based creators and small companies to generate earnings, amongst different issues.
With Venture Texas, nevertheless, TikTok’s mission is concentrated on what Chew known as a “firewall” that might seal off protected U.S. consumer knowledge from unauthorized international entry — that means, after all, the CCP. In a bit of excellent branding, the identify “Texas” refers to the place Oracle is headquartered.
TikTok’s basic plans for Venture Texas had been already identified — the corporate final June wrote to Republican senators to guarantee them the way it was engaged on an initiative to bolster knowledge safety for U.S.-based customers. The letter was written in response to earlier congressional outreach that had adopted a report from BuzzFeed Information that claimed some China-based workers had entry to TikTok U.S. consumer knowledge. In TikTok’s response, it defined the way it supposed to relocate and safeguard the information. Nonetheless, the letter didn’t then decide to a time-frame for the information’s relocation.
Within the testimony this morning, Chew gave TikTok a deadline for that transfer, noting the corporate anticipated to delete knowledge from its personal servers this 12 months. The corporate additionally mentioned it’s spending $1.5 billion on Venture Texas.
“In the present day, U.S. TikTok knowledge is saved by default in Oracle’s service,” Chew mentioned. “Solely vetted personnel working in a brand new firm known as TikTok U.S. Information Safety can management entry to this knowledge. Now moreover, we’ve got plans for this firm to report back to an impartial American board with sturdy safety credentials. Now there’s nonetheless some work to do,” he continued. “Now we have legacy U.S. knowledge sitting in our servers in Virginia and in Singapore. We’re deleting these we count on that to be full this 12 months,” he mentioned.
“When that’s achieved, all protected U.S. knowledge will likely be underneath the safety of U.S. regulation and underneath the management of the U.S.-led safety crew. This eliminates the priority that a few of you may have shared with me that TikTok consumer knowledge could be topic to Chinese language regulation,” Chew added.
TikTok had extra privately shared this time-frame with Congress forward of in the present day’s listening to. The corporate’s attorneys wrote in a letter dated March 7 that TikTok would start the method of deleting personal historic U.S. knowledge this month. That letter had acknowledged TikTok anticipates that this deletion course of can be accomplished this 12 months.
Later within the listening to, the exec was additionally questioned on different elements of TikTok’s knowledge safety, together with whether or not or not it will decide to not promoting U.S. consumer knowledge to anybody. Right here, Chew couldn’t present an easy reply. After initially responding that TikTok wouldn’t promote to knowledge brokers, he mentioned he would have “get again to you” on the main points round whether or not or not it bought knowledge to anybody, after being pushed to reply extra straight.
As well as, the CEO couldn’t make clear if Venture Texas would fully separate TikTok from its Chinese language guardian, as there might be applied sciences that had been interconnected.
Requested if there was “shared know-how” or interconnected “I.T. programs,” Chew mentioned the corporate would “need to get again to you.”
Plus, when questioned about whether or not or not any workers in China would have entry to U.S. knowledge, the exec responded, “After Venture Texas…the reply isn’t any” — a solution that begs the query as to what number of Chinese language workers may entry the information now.
The exec was additionally questioned as as to if or not Chinese language ByteDance workers had been topic to Chinese language regulation, together with the 2017 Nationwide Intelligence Legislation which requires any group or citizen to help and cooperate with state intelligence work. Chew sidestepped answering at first by noting that, “like many firms, together with many American firms, we depend on a worldwide workforce together with engineers in China.”
Requested once more to reply simply sure or no, he then mentioned “prior to now, sure, however we’re constructing Venture Texas and we’re dedicated to firewalling off all protected knowledge.”