TikTok, a Chinese video-sharing platform, has informed users that some of its employees in China have access to data from accounts in the United Kingdom and the European Union. According to the social media giant, the “privacy policy” is “based on a demonstrated need to do their job.”

The problem
Authorities around the world, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have expressed concern that data could be passed to the Chinese government. Although TikTok currently stores European user data in the United States and Singapore, an official explained that they allowed certain employees within the corporate group located in Brazil, Canada, China, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States remote access to TikTok European user data.

State of play
Earlier this week, a US official demanded that the app be banned in the country in the United States citing the risk of data getting into the hands of the Chinese government. But ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, has repeatedly denied that it is controlled by the Chinese government.

An investigation?
Authorities in the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United States have all conducted extensive investigations into the app. In August, the UK Parliament shut down its TikTok account after MPs expressed concerns about data being passed to the Chinese government. Senior MPs and peers demanded that the account be deactivated until TikTok provided assurances that no data would be handed over to Beijing.

The application
Accounts would be deactivated until TikTok provided “credible assurances” that no data would be handed over to Beijing. The Irish Data Protection Commission, the EU’s lead regulator, has also investigated the app over two privacy concerns.

The watchdog is investigating TikTok’s processing of children’s personal data, as well as whether it acted in accordance with EU laws when transferring personal data to countries such as China.

Meanwhile, a US national security panel ordered ByteDance to sell its American operations in 2020, citing concerns that user data could be shared with Chinese authorities. TikTok announced in June that it had migrated the information of its US users to servers hosted by the American software giant Oracle in Austin, Texas.

What you should know
TikTok is the world’s fastest-growing social media app, with nearly 4 billion downloads. According to analytics firm Sensor Tower, it has made more than $6.2 billion (£5.4 billion) in gross revenue from in-app spending since its launch in 2017.

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