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TikTok Offers More Transparency to Avoid Being Banned by US

TikTok is trying to find ways for the US government to not ban the app while remaining with its parent company ByteDance

A 3D printed Tik Tok logo
The TikTok logo is seen in front of the US flag. Photo: Reuters


China’s TikTok is offering to put more of its business under third-party scrutiny as it aims to persuade the US government to not ban the social media app, people familiar with the subject matter said.

TikTok is proposing increased transparency on the condition that it can remain under the ownership of parent company Bytedance.

TikTok has been seeking to assure US government departments and agencies for the last three years that the personal data of US citizens cannot be accessed by China’s Communist Party.


Also on AF: Taiwan Probes TikTok For ‘Illegal Commercial’ Activity


Last year, President Joe Biden revoked an executive order by his predecessor Donald Trump to ban TikTok in the United States, but negotiations between his administration and the social media company continued over a potential deal that would address the security concerns.

TikTok has already unveiled several measures aimed at appeasing the US government, including an agreement for Oracle Corp to store the data of the app’s users in the United States and a United States Data Security (USDS) division to oversee data protection and content moderation decisions.

It has spent $1.5 billion on hiring and reorganisation costs to build up that unit, according to a source familiar with the matter.


The ByteDance Problem

But some government officials, including at the US Department of Defence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, remain opposed to a security deal, according to the sources.

These officials argue that TikTok’s users would continue to be vulnerable because the app would still rely for its technology on ByteDance.

To overcome these hurdles, TikTok has sought to provide new layers of oversight to the US government. It has expanded Oracle’s role to ensuring that TikTok’s technology infrastructure is separate from ByteDance, the sources said.

Oracle will review both app codes, which determine the look and feel of TikTok, and server codes, which provide functions such as search and recommendations, according to the sources.

The reviews will occur at dedicated “transparency centres” visited by Oracle engineers, with the first one scheduled to open in Maryland in January, one of the sources added.


‘Proxy’ Regulation Board

TikTok has also proposed to form a “proxy” board that would run the USDS division independent of ByteDance, the sources said.

This division is headed on an interim basis by Andrew Bonillo, a former US Secret Service agent, and until a security deal with the US is reached it reports to TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew.

ByteDance would not have control over the board and its decisions even though it would pay for the USDS division’s operations, the sources added.

TikTok has been also seeking to hire independent auditors and monitors who would be paid by the company but report to CFIUS, according to the sources. It has sent out requests for proposals for some of the roles to companies and consultants and has set a deadline for responses in the first half of January.

“We have made substantial progress on implementing that solution over the past year, and look forward to completing that work to put these concerns to rest,” a TikTok spokeswoman said.

Oracle did not respond to a request for comment and the White House declined to comment.


  • Reuters, with additional editing from Alfie Habershon



Read more:


US to Ban Use of TikTok App on Government Devices


TikTok App Could Control US Users’ Devices, FBI Chief Says


TikTok Tells EU Users China Staff Can Access Data – Guardian


Alfie Habershon

Alfie is a Reporter at Asia Financial. He previously lived in Mumbai reporting on India's economy and healthcare for data journalism initiative IndiaSpend, as well as having worked for London based Tortoise Media.


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