TikTok CEO pressed in House hearing over whether the Chinese parent ByteDance can access user data

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During a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew faced questions from Reps. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, and Tim Walberg, R-Mich., about whether the social media app’s Chinese-based parent company, ByteDance, has access to U.S. user data.

Video Transcript

BOB LATTA: Yes or no, do any ByteDance employees in China, including engineers, currently have access to US user data?

SHOU CHEW: Today, all US user data is stored by default in the Oracle Cloud infrastructure.

BOB LATTA: The question-- the question--

SHOU CHEW: And access to that is controlled by American personnel.

BOB LATTA: The question is, do any ByteDance employees in China, including engineers, currently have access to US data?

SHOU CHEW: Congressman, I would appreciate-- this is a complex topic. Today, all data is stored by default--

BOB LATTA: Yes or no? It's not that complex. Yes or no, do they have access to user data?

SHOU CHEW: We have after Project Texas is done, the answer is no. Today, there is still some data that we need to delete in Virginia and Singapore.

BOB LATTA: So you're saying yes. We've heard already from the ranking member that he hasn't-- that he doesn't really see that Project Texas is going to be useful.

TIM WALBERG: Following up on what Mr. Latta asked about data access by Chinese engineers, in responding to Mr. Latta, you talked about where American user data would be stored in the future. But the question was about access today, storage in the future versus access today. This is total redirection. This blows up any trust we could desire to develop. So to be clear Mr. Chew, today, do ByteDance employees in Beijing have access to American data?

SHOU CHEW: Congressman, we have been very open about this. We have relied on global interoperability.

TIM WALBERG: Do you have access to American data?

SHOU CHEW: Congressman, I'm answering your question, if you give me just a bit of time. We rely on global interoperability. And we have employees in China. So yes, the Chinese engineers do have access to global data.

TIM WALBERG: You have access to global data--

SHOU CHEW: We have heard.

TIM WALBERG: --not storage.

SHOU CHEW: No. Storage has always been in Virginia and Singapore, the physical servers.

TIM WALBERG: You have no access to storage to American data today?

SHOU CHEW: That's not what I said. I said--

TIM WALBERG: So you do have access to American data, and you have storage of American data.

SHOU CHEW: The American data has always been stored in Virginia and Singapore in the past. And access of this is on an as-required basis by engineers globally.

TIM WALBERG: As required of who?

SHOU CHEW: By engineers for business purposes.

TIM WALBERG: By engineers?

SHOU CHEW: This a private company.

TIM WALBERG: ByteDance?

SHOU CHEW: ByteDance--

TIM WALBERG: The Communist Party?

SHOU CHEW: No. No.

TIM WALBERG: How can you say that--

SHOU CHEW: This is a--

TIM WALBERG: --if they have access?

SHOU CHEW: This is private business. This is a private business. And like many other businesses, many other American companies, we rely on the global workforce.