SAULSALITO, Calif. (AP) – Under intense scrutiny from Washington that could lead to a potential ban, the attorney general defended TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance over the social media platform’s plan to keep US user data out of China.
“The main approach that we have to follow is that it is impossible for any government, including the Chinese government, to gain access to US user data,” General Counsel Erich Andersen said in an interview with the Associated Press. cybersecurity conference in Sausalito, California, on Friday. by the Hewlett Foundation and Aspen Digital and featuring top government officials, technical executives and journalists.
ByteDance will continue to develop a new app called Lemon8, Andersen said.
“We are obviously going to do with the Lemon8 app to comply with the US law and make sure we do the right thing here,” Andersen said, referring to the new app developed by ByteDance, which is similar to Instagram and Pinterest. period
ByteDance’s most popular app, TikTok, is under intense scrutiny over whether it may hand over user data to the Chinese government or push pro-Beijing propaganda and misinformation on its behalf. Lemon8 was introduced across app stores in Japan in April 2020 and has since been developed in several countries. It’s available for download in the US and faces similar scrutiny to TikTok.
Officials at the FBI, CIA and other government agencies have warned that ByteDance could be forced to hand over user data — such as tracking history, IP addresses and biometric identifiers — to Beijing under a 2017 law requiring companies to cooperate with the government on matters related to China’s national security. Another Chinese law, enacted in 2014, has similar mandates.
To address concerns raised by US officials, TikTok launched a $1.5 billion proposal, Project Texas, to store all US user data on servers owned and maintained by the cloud computing giant. Under the plan, access to US employees’ data is managed by a separate entity called TikTok US Data Security, which is run independently of ByteDance and monitored by outside observers.
Some lawyers said it was not enough. But despite the skepticism surrounding the project, TikTok says it’s going ahead anyway.
“We’re investing in a system where people don’t have to trust the Chinese government and they don’t have to trust us,” Andersen said.
He also wondered if doubts were being raised by someone else.
“Where do we go from here?” he said. “At some point you go beyond cybersecurity risk assessment, etc., and you get, ‘We don’t like your country.’
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said the company began deleting all historical US user data from non-Oracle servers this month, and expects to complete the process this year. In a congressional hearing held last week, Chew said that migrating data to Oracle would keep it out of China’s hands, but he also acknowledged that China-based employees still have access to it before the process closes.
TikTok claims that it has never been asked or asked to share any information. But either those promises or the Texas Project will allow the operator to remain in the US.
The US, like Britain, the European Union and others, have banned TikTok from government policies. And the Biden administration, apparently was threatened with a US ban in the app except for their Chinese owners in the company to take off the stakes.
On Friday, Andersen said he would “mostly resign” from the ban.
“Banning a platform like TikTok is a disaster, saying that we are not creative enough to find another way,” he said.
China has said it may block the sale, a declaration that makes it harder for TikTok to position itself and ByteDance as a global enterprise instead of a Chinese company. In 2020, the country also strongly opposed the ranks of the executive as well as President Donald Trump, who asked to condemn TikTok and the messaging app WeChat.
“It’s time for them to reconsider their role in the 2020 timeframe when we’re faced with an existential challenge due to the executive order under the Trump administration,” Andersen said.
Judges blocked Trump’s efforts, and President Joe Biden rescinded Trump’s orders after taking office. The company is in confidential talks with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a multi-agency panel that sits under the Treasury Department.
Meanwhile, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have introduced bills that would effectively ban TikTok or give the administration greater authority to do so. One bill by US Sen. Josh Hawley this week from Sen. Rand Paul, the only Republican who came against the TikTok ban. A small number of progressive lawmakers have also spoken out against the ban, and the US has adopted a national privacy law to mitigate the problem.
Andersen said Friday that TikTok would support broad-based privacy legislation.
“Our view is that we really welcome a broad-based law that applies broadly and evenly,” he said. “What I don’t like, frankly, is legislation that’s just going to be shot in one county.”
TikTok could also be sanctioned by another bill, the so-called Restrictive Actions Act, which garners bipartisan support in the Senate and has been defeated by the White House. The legislation does not mention TikTok but would give the Commerce Department the power to review and potentially restrict foreign threats to the technology platform.
This story has been updated to change the Hewlett-Packard Foundation to the Hewlett Foundation.