TikTok CEO says ByteDance in China May Still Have Access to US User Data


TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew today told Congress that Chinese parent company ByteDance may still have access to U.S. data as the video-sharing app attempts to prevent a potential nationwide ban.

Chew made the comments as he testified for the first time before U.S. Congress today as the prospect of a national ban on the popular Chinese-owned app looms large.

In a rare public appearance, the TikTok CEO attempted to convince lawmakers and intelligence officials in the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the app was safe and that it should not be banned.

During the testimony, Representative Bob Latta asked Chew if any ByteDance employee in China could access U.S. data.

Chew answered that China-based employees at TikTok’s parent company ByteDance may still have access to some U.S. data from the app. However, he said this would no longer be the case once “Project Texas” is complete.

TikTok’s lobbying effort named Project Texas involves bringing in American tech giant Oracle to host U.S. user data and review its software.

“After Project Texas is done, the answer is no,” Chew tells Latta. “Today, there is still some data that we need to delete.”

Chew also denied it shares U.S. data with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), stating that TikTok is a “private business.”

Later during the hearing, Representative Anna Eshoo asked how TikTok could get around a law in China that compels firms to hand over data to the government if requested to do — even if Project Texas was completed.

Chew reiterated the plan to move U.S. data from the app to America. However, Eshoo was not satisfied with the response and told the TikTok CEO that he was “sidestepping.”

“How can you promise the data will move to the US and be protected here?” Eshoo inquired.

Chew responded that there was no evidence that the Chinese government has access to U.S. data.

“They haven’t asked us,” the TikTok CEO responded.

Eshoo was not convinced: “When you look at their national law… I think there is a real problem relative to our national security about the protection of the user data.”

Little is known about how Chew operates in TikTok or even how much power he truly holds at the company as its CEO. Until now, chief operating officer Vanessa Pappas has been the public face of TikTok and was questioned by Congress last September about U.S. data flows to China.

But TikTok is now making sure Chew takes center stage, at a time when TikTok’s connections to the Chinese government are under greater scrutiny than ever.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration demanded that the Chinese-owned TikTok be sold or the app will face a nationwide ban in the U.S.

The demand is a major escalation by the Biden administration who have become increasingly concerned about the national security risks posed by TikTok and the safety of American users’ data.

It is also the first time the Biden administration has categorically threatened to ban TikTok — which now has 150 million American users.

In September 2020, President Donald Trump attempted to ban the video-sharing app across the U.S. However a few days later, Trump’s ban was halted by federal courts.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.