ByteDance has stepped up efforts to separate its social media app TikTok from much of its Chinese operations, amid a U.S. national security panel’s inquiry into the safety of the personal data it handles, according to a Reuters report.
According to the story, the Chinese technology company is seeking to provide assurances to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) that personal data held by TikTok, which is widely popular with U.S. teenagers, is stored securely in the United States and will not be compromised by Chinese authorities.
Reuters had reported earlier this month that CFIUS, which reviews deals by foreign acquirers for potential national security risks, is looking into ByteDance’s $1 billion acquisition of social media app Musical.ly in 2017, which laid the foundations for TikTok’s rapid growth.
Interestingly, things are quite underway. ByteDance completed the separation of TikTok’s product and business development, marketing and legal teams from those of its Chinese social media app Douyin in the third quarter of this year. According to Reuters, it also hired an external consultant to carry out audits on the integrity of the personal data it stores. The company has said U.S. user data is stored entirely in the United States, with a backup in Singapore. It has also said that the Chinese government does not have any jurisdiction over TikTok content.
Following the approach by CFIUS, TikTok is making a new push to set up a team in Mountain View, California, that will oversee data management, according to the sources. This team will determine whether Chinese-based engineers should have access to TikTok’s database, and monitor their activity.