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TikTok says certain Chinese employees can access U.S. user data, outlines better safeguards


In an open letter [PDF] to several U.S. Senators who have voiced worry that the China-based app is a national security risk, TikTok stated that it is working on a plan to better protect the data of its U.S. users.

The letter, which was made public by The New York Times, describes “Project Texas,” a multifaceted initiative aimed at enhancing data security. According to TikTok, all data from American users is kept in an Oracle cloud environment that is based in the US. TikTok is also collaborating with Oracle on more sophisticated data security safeguards that will be completed “shortly.”

TikTok intends to remove all American data from its servers and only store data with Oracle. According to the corporation, all data exchange that takes place outside of the US will be in accordance with “protocols and agreements recognized by the US government.”


Project Texas’s overarching objective is to strengthen our systems and controls in order to foster trust with users and important stakeholders. It also aims to make significant strides toward compliance with a final agreement with the US government that will fully protect user data and US national security interests. Since the engagement with the U.S. Government is confidential, we have refrained from discussing these plans publicly. However, given the current situation, we must share some of that information publicly in order to address the errors and misunderstandings in the article as well as some lingering concerns about other facets of our business.

Following a BuzzFeed News investigation that revealed TikTok developers in China may have had access to the data of U.S. users between September 2021 and January 2022, worries about TikTok have grown over the past two weeks. In recordings heard by BuzzFeed, a TikTok employee said that “everything is seen in China.” The tapes also mentioned a Chinese “Master Admin” engineer who “has access to everything.”

The US Federal Communications Commission requested Apple and Google to ban TikTok from their app stores earlier this week due to “a pattern of surreptitious data practices” and worries about U.S. data access.


According to TikTok’s letter, some Chinese employees can access data from TikTok users in the United States “subject to a number of stringent cybersecurity safeguards” managed by a security team stationed in the United States. According to TikTok, it has an internal mechanism for classifying data and an approval process that determines access levels based on how sensitive the material is. In the future, it will collaborate with the Biden Administration to keep data access restrictions in place.

To ensure global interoperability, TikTok stated that “certain China-based employees will have access to a narrow, non-sensitive set of TikTok U.S. user data.” This statement was made in response to a question about why TikTok does not intend to block all U.S. user data from the view of employees in China. The TikTok video recommendation algorithm will also be developed by employees using American data, but only on Oracle’s servers will it be trained.

In addition to being “extremely limited,” TikTok guarantees that access will not include “private TikTok U.S. user information.” According to TikTok, it has not been asked to share data to the Chinese government and would not do so if it did.


The FCC has asked Apple and Google to remove the TikTok app from their app stores, but neither company has yet reacted.

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