TikTok’s efforts to address US data privacy fears may have loopholes. A self-proclaimed whistleblower talking to the washington post says that the social network’s plan to protect US user data, Project Texas, has major flaws. The former Trust and Safety team member claims the $1.5 billion initiative will still allow TikTok to connect to parent company ByteDance’s Toutiao, a well-known Chinese news app. In theory, that link could allow China access to US data. A truly secure approach would require a “complete reengineering” of the service’s infrastructure, the former employee says.
The staffer also claims to have met with the offices of Senator Chuck Grassley and Senator Mark Warner to discuss the alleged weaknesses. Representatives of both senators acknowledged that meetings had taken place.
We have asked TikTok for feedback. Anonymous people at the social media giant tell The charge that the claims are “baseless” and that the Toutiao code only amounts to a “technical relic and naming convention” that does not link the app to China. They also believe that the relocation of US data to Oracle’s servers undermines the claim that Toutiao could affect US business. The whistleblower was only employed for half a year and allegedly left months before he was due to leave. end of the Texas Project. He may not know the whole picture, in other words.
TikTok has repeatedly denied cooperating with the Chinese government, and there is no publicly known evidence to that effect. Douyin, the equivalent app available within China, has completely independent content.
The timing of the alleged reveal is not good for TikTok. The House and Senate bills (Warner co-sponsored the latest bill) could lead to nationwide TikTok bans if they become law, and CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify before the House on March 23 to address safety and child protection concerns. Politicians worry that the Chinese government could use TikTok to collect data on Americans and spread propaganda, and the report does little to allay those fears.