TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew / Photo credit: World Economic Forum
In a five-hour testimony, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew has denied accusations from US lawmakers that the platform mishandles data of US users and has strong ties to the Chinese government.
“Our commitment under Project Texas is for the data of all Americans to be stored in America, hosted by an American headquartered company, with access to the data controlled by USDS personnel. Under this structure, there is no way for the Chinese government to access it or compel access to it,” he said.
Project Texas involves setting up a new subsidiary in TikTok US Data Security Inc. (USDS), which was formed around May of last year. TikTok has spent around US$1.5 billion for the project.
However, Chew noted that the app has data of US users stored in Virginia and Singapore but plans to delete them all this year.
The CEO also admitted that Beijing-based engineers have access to data from its users around the world right now as the company “relies on a global workforce.”
The concerns on mishandling of data comes from how Chinese law requires companies based in China – including TikTok owner ByteDance – to hand over user data if so required.
Tiktok has disclosed that it has over 150 million monthly active users in the US, representing about 10% of the app’s global community. These users generate 25% of total video views.
Chew also expressed his concerns on recent proposals by US lawmakers, which include requiring ByteDance to divest from the app and even outright banning TikTok in the country.
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