ByteDance’s China-based employees can nonetheless entry some US knowledge

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew arrives to comment ahead of House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, “TikTok:

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew told US lawmakers that China-based employees of parent company ByteDance may still have access to some US data from the app, but added that this will no longer be the case once the risk mitigation plan called Project Texas had been completed.

The exchange is significant because it sums up US officials’ fears about TikTok ownership and also shows how difficult and time-consuming it can be to disentangle the app from its Chinese parent company.

Lawmakers and intelligence agencies fear that US user data via ByteDance could end up in the hands of the Chinese government. That’s because Chinese law allows the government to obtain insider information from Chinese-based companies for alleged national security purposes, CNBC reported.

During Chew’s much-anticipated testimony before the House Energy and Trade Committee, Bob Latta, R-Ohio, asked Chew if any ByteDance employees in China could currently access US data.

“With Project Texas complete, the answer is no,” Chew said. “Today there is still some data that we have to delete.”

Later in the hearing, in an exchange with Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., Chew denied that it shares U.S. data with the Chinese Communist Party and said that TikTok is a “private company” that like many others focuses on a ” Global workforce.”

In response to a request for comment last week on a Wall Street Journal article’s comment that TikTok constituted a Chinese spy operation, a TikTok spokesman said in a statement that there was “no truth” to the claim.

The spokesperson added at the time that “since October 2022, all new US user data will be stored exclusively in the oracle Cloud environment with protected data completely inaccessible to foreign governments. This data is managed solely by US Data Security – an American-owned, America-based TikTok subsidiary whose sole focus is protecting US national security interests by securing US user data and prevents external manipulation of our systems.

TikTok said Thursday that Project Texas is already in action, but there are many steps to complete it. That includes wiping data from TikTok’s servers in Singapore and Virginia, a process that began last week. The data on these servers is the kind that the China-based ByteDance staff could theoretically still access for now.

Once that data is deleted, those employees will no longer have access to US user data from the app, according to TikTok.

— CNBC’s Rohan Goswami contributed to this report.

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WATCH: TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew: I do not condone efforts by former employees to access US user data

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