There may be flaws in TikTok’s attempts to allay US concerns about data privacy. According to a self-described whistleblower who spoke with The Washington Post, Project Texas, the social network’s effort to safeguard the data of American users, has significant weaknesses.
The former Trust and Safety team member asserts that TikTok will still be able to connect to Toutiao, a popular Chinese news app, as part of the $1.5 billion initiative. Theoretically, that connection may give Beijing access to US data. According to the former employee, a fully secure strategy would necessitate a “total re-engineering” of the service’s architecture.
Additionally, the staff member claims to have discussed the apparent flaws with Senators Mark Warner and Chuck Grassley’s offices. Both senators’ spokesman confirmed that meetings had taken place.
TikTok has been contacted for comment. The Post is informed by unidentified sources within the social media behemoth that the allegations are “unfounded” and that the Toutiao code is merely a “naming convention and technological artefact” that does not connect the app to China.
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They also think that Toutiao’s potential impact on US company is disproved by the transfer of US data to Oracle servers. The whistleblower allegedly left months before Project Texas was completed, despite working there for only six months. In other words, he could not be fully aware of the situation.
There is no publicly available evidence that TikTok is collaborating with the Chinese government, despite the company’s repeated denials. The identical app, called Douyin, is accessible in China and includes entirely different material.
The alleged disclosure comes at a bad time for TikTok. CEO Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify before the House on March 23 to discuss security and child safety issues raised by House and Senate measures (the latter of which Warner co-sponsored). The research does nothing to allay politicians’ concerns that the Chinese government may use TikTok to gather information on Americans and disseminate propaganda.
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