TikTok moves to US servers, but report claims ‘everything is seen in China’

Short-form video social media platform TikTok has announced that it has begun routing its US user data to local servers owned by Oracle, however fresh concerns have been raised over the app as a result of a leak from China.

After spending months as a target of former US president Donald Trump – who threatened the app with a nationwide ban and tried to force it into splitting off its US assets from parent company ByteDance – the company has confirmed a partnership with Texas-based Oracle. 

The partnership promises to safeguard US user data in Oracle servers and stop ByteDance from accessing said data.

In a blog post, Albert Calamug, head of US security public policy at TikTok, wrote: “Today, 100% of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. We still use our US and Singapore data centres for backup, but as we continue our work we expect to delete US users’ private data from our own data centres and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the US.”

While this all sounds positive for TikTok users, a report from Buzzfeed News has cast doubt on the validity of its claims.

The report cites leaked audio from more than 80 internal meetings at the company, where staff in China repeatedly claim that they had accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users. 

It goes on to claim that engineers in China had access to US user data at least from September 2021-January 2022, with one member of TikTok’s Trust and Safety department stating “everything is seen in China” and that there is a ‘master admin’ who “has access to everything.”

A spokesperson for TikTok responded to the report by stating that “we hire experts in their fields, continually work to validate our security standards, and bring in reputable, independent third parties to test our defences,” but did not directly respond to the allegations of Chinese access to US user data.

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