ByteDance, the Chinese owner of the social media app TikTok, is trying to separate the app from its other Chinese businesses and operations as the app has come under pressure after an inquiry into the safety of the personal data it handles was initiated by the national security panel of the United States, claimed reports quoting sources with knowledge of the matter.
Amidst the probe, a effort is being made by the Chinese tech firm to assure the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) that all of the personal data it collects from its US users of TikTok are securely stored in in servers in the US. The app is widely popular among American teenagers and the company has assured that such data collected by it will not be shared with Chinese authorities, claimed the reports.
ByteDance’s $1 billion acquisition of social media app Musical.ly in 2017 is being reviewed by the CFIUS which is tasked with reviewing all foreign deals and acquisitions of US companies from the perspective of possible national security threats. Reports said that fast the growth of TikTok in the US was significantly boosted by the acquisition.
There is increased scrutiny of the Chinese companies acquiring US companies and taking up shares because of the ongoing trade war between the two largest economies of the world and the response to the ByteDance’s acquisition is being viewed as crucial to see whether Chinese companies that handle personal data would be able to operate business in the US.
In May this year, the CFIUS requested the Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech to divest popular gay dating app Grindr after there were concerns about personal data security and ByteDance now is trying to avoid such as condition for its acquisition. Beijing Kunlun Tech is now trying to exiting its investment in Grindr by launching an initial public offering.
According to the reports quoting sources, even before ByteDance was approached by the CFIUS in October, the Chinese company has began a process of separating TikTok operationally because it wanted a section of its staff to concentrate more on TikTok to make it more popular.
Reports also said that by the third quarter of this year, the company had already segregated the team looking after the product and business development, marketing and legal affairs for TikTok form those working for its Chinese social media app Douyin.
Reports also claimed that the integrity of the personal data it stores was audited by the company through an external consultant that it had hired for this purpose during the summer. All the data of its US users are stored completely in the US with a backup service in Singapore, the company has said. There is also jurisdiction of the Chinese government over TikTok content, it has also said.
A new team is also reportedly being set u[p by the company for TikTok in Mountain View, California, after it was approached by CFIUS. This new team will deal with data management as well as determine whether Chinese-based engineers should have access to TikTok’s database and be allowed to monitor their activity, said reports.
(Adapted from CNN.com)