Least surprising news ever. Obviously.
This is why smart travelers take burner phones to China that don’t log into any of their existing accounts and one of the worst user data hacks in America happened when an employee accessed root out of China. But this is evidence from the inside that TikTok is just another data trap.
For years, TikTok has responded to data privacy concerns by promising that information gathered about users in the United States is stored in the United States, rather than China, where ByteDance, the video platform’s parent company, is located. But according to leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings, China-based employees of ByteDance have repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users — exactly the type of behavior that inspired former president Donald Trump to threaten to ban the app in the United States.
The recordings, which were reviewed by BuzzFeed News, contain 14 statements from nine different TikTok employees indicating that engineers in China had access to US data between September 2021 and January 2022, at the very least. Despite a TikTok executive’s sworn testimony in an October 2021 Senate hearing that a “world-renowned, US-based security team” decides who gets access to this data, nine statements by eight different employees describe situations where US employees had to turn to their colleagues in China to determine how US user data was flowing. US staff did not have permission or knowledge of how to access the data on their own, according to the tapes.
Why would anyone expect anything else? This is how Chinese companies work. The locus of control is always going to be with their own people and the idea that Americans would be allowed to act as gatekeepers over Chinese execs was always implausibly absurd. Americans working for TikTok are there to take orders from China. Not the other way around.
In 2019, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States began investigating the national security implications of TikTok’s collection of American data. And in 2020, then-president Donald Trump threatened to ban the app entirely over concerns that the Chinese government could use ByteDance to amass dossiers of personal information about US TikTok users. TikTok’s “data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information,” Trump wrote in his executive order. TikTok has said it has never shared user data with the Chinese government and would not do so if asked.
A Chinese company isn’t going share data with its own government in a system where the options are…
1. Share the data
2. Go to prison, be executed, have your organs harvested and your corpse displayed at one of those human body exhibits traveling America
There is, however, another concern: that the soft power of the Chinese government could impact how ByteDance executives direct their American counterparts to adjust the levers of TikTok’s powerful “For You” algorithm, which recommends videos to its more than 1 billion users. Sen. Ted Cruz, for instance, has called TikTok “a Trojan horse the Chinese Communist Party can use to influence what Americans see, hear, and ultimately think.”
Project Texas’s narrow focus on the security of a specific slice of US user data, much of which the Chinese government could simply buy from data brokers if it so chose, does not address fears that China, through ByteDance, could use TikTok to influence Americans’ commercial, cultural, or political behavior.
The algorithmic secret sauce is bad enough when it’s in the hands of lefty Big Tech corps in America, imagine what China’s overlords can do with it. And probably;are.
Why is TikTok is abrasively leftist and dedicated to promoting political extremes? Likely, because the Chinese are doing what the Russians were actually (as opposed to the Russiagate nonsense) which is amplifying the extremes in order to cause chaos in America and find likely recruits among the political extremes.
TikTok is a cultural weapon aimed at America and the trigger will always be in Bejiing.