Despite previous reassurances from TikTok's CEO to Congress during his testimony that "American data stored on American soil," the Chinese company has confirmed that some U.S. user data has been stored on China-based servers.
The admission came in a June 16 letter from the Chinese social media platform in response to questions and concerns raised by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.
TikTok had been accused by the senators of making misleading claims to Congress regarding the location at which it stored U.S. user data, citing a report by Forbes that claimed TikTok stored financial information, including social security numbers and tax IDs for U.S. content creators, on Chinese servers.
According to the TikTok executive, the testimony that was previously provided to Congress was regarding protected user data that is collected within the app and was not related to the data of content creators, which the executive claims fall under a different category.
"The Forbes reporter conflated two categories of data, and we stand by the statements made by our company executives to Congress," TikTok executives wrote in the letter. "We are asked about, and our testimony focused on, the protected user data collected in the app - not creator data," they added.
The company also explained that there are "limited exceptions to the definition of protected data."
Those exceptions include, "public data, business metrics, interoperability data, and certain creator data, if a creator voluntarily signs up for a commercial program to be supported by TikTok in reaching new audiences and monetizing content," the letter read.
"TikTok believes that the Forbes article cited in your letter was referencing certain creator data such as signed contracts and related documents for U.S. creators who enter into a commercial relationship with TikTok - information that is collected outside of the standard app experience," it continued.
Regarding the senators' concerns that the U.S. user data stored on the Chinese servers could be shared with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under China's National Intelligence Law, TikTok executives said that it had not been asked for the data by the CCP.
TikTok also reiterated that not only had it not been asked to provide the information, but also that the company would not share U.S. user data with the CCP if asked.
Subscribe to our evening newsletter to stay informed during these challenging times!!