TikTok makes fresh push to convince EU it won’t give data to China
As you most likely know, behind its innocent facade of offering you videos of dancing-next-door girls or funny animals and viral trends, TikTok is spyware from the Chinese government. Or at least, that’s what many seem to think about ByteDance’s enormously popular social media platform.
The most recent party to join the TikTok-is-spyware bandwagon is none other than the European Union. European Commission and European Parliament members are being instructed to delete this app from their work phones because of privacy concerns.
This is a huge blow for TikTok since it was already banned on all US federal government devices last December. Even though you might wonder who on Earth wants to watch political figures dancing on TikTok, it’s still a PR disaster for the company.
TikTok made a counter-offer in an attempt to reassure EU officials that EU data will be protected. To do so, the company plans to build three European data centers which will store the information of TikTok’s 150 million users in this region. A third party will audit these data centers. The cost is around USD 1.3 billion annually.
This is similar to Project Texas in the USA, where the company plans to store data. It’s called Project Clover for the European market. Currently, the data centers which store European user info are located in Singapore and the US.
The company claims, of course, that concerns are unsubstantiated. “The Chinese government has never asked us for data and if they would, we would refuse to do so”, mentioned Theo Bertram, the policy chief for TikTok Europe, pinky promise and all.
It’s interesting to live in a world so full of data that you don’t even know what’s true or false anymore. But I digress.
The company mentioned that for very specific reasons and with strict protocols, employees outside of Europe will still be able to access this data. It’s not clear what kind of employees and what kind of “strict” protocols will be in place, however.
Additionally, according to TikTok’s head of privacy in Europe, the company needs to allow data transfers to other countries because the content is supposed to be shared outside of the continent.
ByteDance also plays down the importance, if there’s any, of it being a Chinese company. Just like The Beatles, ByteDance considers itself “bigger than Jesus” by analogy. The company claims to be “global”, comparing itself to Google and TikTok being its YouTube.
Whereas TikTok claims to be innocent, it’s not only a suspicion that fuels Western concerns over the app. The company itself had to acknowledge the massive data breach last year when employees had access to sensitive information from users, which in turn triggered the US officials’ reaction.
There are more dark clouds on TikTok’s horizon, too. There’s a US Senate bill that proposes banning the video platform altogether from the United States. The White House is supporting this bill as well.