TikTok saved YouTubers’ social security numbers in China: report

Credit: Solen Feyissa

Last year, Beijing-based company ByteDance admitted that its employees unlawfully accessed TikTok user data. As the app continues to face regulatory scrutiny in the US and abroad, a report claims that the developers’ “sensitive financial information” was actually stored on servers in China.

These latest details on the short video sharing platform’s practices were revealed in a recent Forbes article. For reference, critics have repeatedly pointed to TikTok’s legal obligation to share data with the Chinese Communist Party (which owns part of ByteDance) when asked to do so.

Still, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before US lawmakers in March that his company has “always” stored Americans’ user data in Virginia and his native Singapore. Notwithstanding the comments and related claims regarding Project Texas (an initiative allegedly capable of storing US user data in the US), ByteDance has been accused in a lawsuit of maintaining unilateral backdoor access to TikTok’s database in China.

The Forbes article mentioned above provides additional context for the latter lawsuit and the overriding allegations. According to the article, creators’ and companies’ social security numbers and tax IDs were “stored on servers in China accessible to employees there.”

According to the same report, “a wealth of records” were obtained and analyzed to reach the conclusion, raising interesting questions about whether employees actually accessed the information. As previously mentioned, ByteDance previously confirmed that its team members had unauthorized access to user data in China.

According to Forbes, TikTok — which is banned on government devices in numerous states, as well as the US, Canada, the UK, the European Union and France — has chosen not to respond to inquiries on the subject. Among the unanswered questions was whether the financial data of the authors is currently still stored in China.

Of course, it will be interesting to see how the bombastic development affects the fate of TikTok in the US. Despite a reported White House forced sale request and several bipartisan bills (which proclaim the same goal but vary significantly in scope) targeting the app, it continues to function as usual in (most of) the US for now

ByteDance has reportedly spent about $14 million lobbying in the US alone since 2019, and logic suggests that quite a few influential companies are in no hurry to launch the New York Yankees – and NFL – affiliated TikTok in ban America.

Government inaction over the app aside, parents of the service’s many under-18s appear unaware or concerned that TikTok is allegedly misusing children’s data and exposing children to explicit content.

In the music space in particular, TikTok is making big strides (most recently announcing an “Artist Impact Program” and launching a “global music discovery hub”), despite crackdowns from regulators and difficult licensing negotiations with major labels.

Brian Ashcraft

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