TikTok is no doubt the biggest social media phenomenon across the globe right now but its Chinese origin continues to hunt it wherever it goes. The short video sharing platform has faced a ton of adversaries from the previous US administrations and will continue to face the same wrath in other regions including the United Kingdom and the United States, of course, over its data privacy policies.
The company will now have to put its expansion plans in those markets under a cloud.
In recent times, TikTok has gotten a ton of complaints over its data practices with political figures, media outlets, and even research agencies turning up the heat to a level unseen since the Trump administration failed in its effort to shut the platform down or even force a sale to American owners back in 2020.
ByteDance, the Chinese tech giant that owns TikTok has kept a low profile on the matter after revamping its business structure last year in order to make TikTok of its six business groups.
TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
With over 1 billion active users globally, the service has amassed a height never seen before in such a very short period of time. TikTok is however not used in China as there is a localized version called Douyin which is also a huge phenomenon with over 600 million daily active user base.
On the Chinese government’s part, it has remained mute on the issue, however, UK prime ministerial candidate Liz Truss said she would crack down on Chinese businesses such as TikTok if elected leader leading to Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian calling her remarks “irresponsible”.
On the other end is the US government with its congressional scrutiny over potential access to personal user information by employees of the Chinese parent company, Singapore-based TikTok CEO Chew Shou Zi then wrote to nine Republican senators on June 30th to outline new measures for the app had taken to protect US-based users’ data.
“We know we are among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of US user data,” Chew wrote.
The letter came right after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member Brendan Carr publicly requested Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores over data security concerns.
TikTok also set up a division called US Data Security for the purpose of “minimizing employee access to US user data and minimizing data transfers across regions – including to China”, Michael Beckerman, head of public policy for TikTok Americas, wrote in a statement this month.
These efforts, however, have failed to silence the critics.
Concerns over data handling practices have been a concern about the company in other regions including Australia and Italy. In fact, Italy’s data protection authority said earlier this month that the app may have breached European Union rules by delivering targeted ads without user consent.
TikTok responded that the company “strives to build a personalized experience” and is “committed to respecting the privacy of its users”.
Internet 2.0, an Australian cybersecurity firm, this month accused TikTok of collecting an excessive amount of user data. Researchers from the firm said the app checks device location at least once an hour continuously seeks access to contacts even after a user has denied previous requests, and maps installed apps on a user’s device.
In June, the company said it moved all US data to servers controlled by Oracle. It added that it was “working with Oracle on new, advanced data security controls” that would enable the company to “pivot toward a novel and industry-leading system for protecting the data of [its] users in the United States, with robust, independent oversight to ensure compliance”.
Separately, TikTok has been implementing lay-offs in the US, UK, and Europe, according to tech publication Wired. David Ortiz, the New York-based leader of TikTok’s monetization product, wrote on LinkedIn last week that his role was “being eliminated in a much larger reorganization effort”.