Serviceteam IT Security News

TikTok’s UK chief has strenuously denied the video-sharing app, which Donald Trump has threatened to ban, shares data with China.

Richard Waterworth told the Observer that the UK and European arm of TikTok was growing quickly, despite the “turbulent” geopolitical battle in which the Chinese-born app has found itself.

TikTok is a short-form video sharing app, whose users – many of whom are teenagers – upload videos of between 15 and 60 seconds long. It’s been downloaded more than 2bn times, with an estimated 800 million people using it frequently.

But the app, owned by Chinese social-media giant ByteDance, has been accused by both Trump and prominent Conservative politicians in the UK of being a national security risk, siphoning off data to be hoovered up by the Chinese government.

The former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith this month described ByteDance as “every bit as unreliable as Huawei”, the Chinese telecoms giant whose equipment the government has vowed to remove from the UK’s 5G network.

TikTok users have also successfully got under the skin of Trump – one of its most high-profile stars, Sarah Cooper, has made her name mocking the president. In June, thousands of TikTok-using teenagers organised mass ticket reservations for a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, without the intention of turning up – leaving the president addressing a half-empty arena.

Citing its links to China, Trump has threatened to ban the app in the US by issuing two executive orders that compel the company to sell its US business to an American company. Microsoft and Oracle, a database company, are believed to be the two leading bidders.

Judi Dench.

Judi Dench, who recently made a cameo appearance on her grandson’s TikTok profile and called the app a ‘lifesaver’. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

Cybersecurity experts who have pored over the app’s source code say the data it collects, and the way it handles it, are no different to apps such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. “We’ve tried to be very explicit and clear about it,” Waterworth said. “No data is shared or given to the Chinese government, and we wouldn’t give it to them if asked.”

TikTok’s UK and European users’ data is stored in the US, with plans to move it to Dublin in the next two to three years as the company says it is building a $500m data centre there.

“We understand why people ask questions when the company grows up in China,” said Waterworth. “We understand the geopolitical situation that leads people to ask those questions.”

Waterworth, who joined TikTok a year ago, said he “never had a concern” about the company’s connection to China. “I’ve obviously seen and understood from the outside and the inside how the company operates, and it operates with a level of professionalism, integrity and transparency that I think is exactly where it should be.”

Next month, the company will launch its biggest advertising campaign to expand the app’s reach in the UK. TikTok declined to provide user numbers, but a YouGov survey at the start of the pandemic found 27% of 18- to 24-year-olds use the app, while leaked data obtained by the New York Times indicates 43% of the app’s UK users are under 14.

The app is believed to have grown its older audience during lockdown, as families started using it together.

In recent months, Dame Judi Dench has appeared on the app, making a cameo on her grandson’s profile where she called it a “lifesaver”.

Artists such as Cat Burns, a 20-year-old musician who has nearly 600,000 followers on TikTok, will play a key role in the print, television and digital advertising campaign. She’s one of a number of artists, including rapper S1mba, who recently signed his first record deal, who have benefited from the viral propulsion of their songs being used as soundtracks on TikTok videos.

“That ability to expose and break new talent and give the world all these amazing creative artists is really exciting,” said Waterworth. “It’s a big part of what’s happening in the music industry right now.”

Source: The Guardian

With over 20 years of experience, Serviceteam IT design and deliver sophisticated connectivity, communication, continuity, and cloud services, for organisations that need to stay connected 24/7. We take the time to fully understand your current challenges, and provide a solution that gives you a clear understanding of what you are purchasing and the benefits it will bring you.

To find out how we can help you, call us on 0121 468 0101, use the Contact Us form, or why not drop in and visit us at 49 Frederick Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 1HN.

We’d love to hear from you!