TikTok, the popular video sharing app that works like a social media platform, confirmed that Chinese engineers write the app’s source code, the Daily Mail reported on Monday — a revelation that House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., says endangers American citizens’ data because it gives the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “back door” access to private information.
An April 10 letter from Green to Shou Zi Chew, TikTok’s CEO since 2021, outlined concerns regarding connections between the Chinese government and ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. The chairman also demanded answers on whether anyone in China has access to developing the app’s source code and if the company could guarantee that there are no “back door” entry points for bad actors to gather data.
The Daily Mail obtained a letter sent May 8 from Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s vice president of Public Policy, that responded to Green’s queries and confirmed that the company has “software engineers throughout the world,” including the “United States and China.”
Beckerman noted in his letter that employing a global workforce to write software code is “the norm” for large technology companies. He also assured Green that under Project Texas — TikTok’s “framework” to address U.S. lawmakers’ concerns regarding national security — all software and source code is inspected by Oracle and a separate third party.
“This system provides an unprecedented and comprehensive level of assurance against 'back doors' — to our knowledge, more comprehensive than what any other peer company has committed to doing despite also using global engineering workforces,” Beckerman wrote.
TikTok’s public policy chief also offered in his letter that the company would be happy to provide Green and his staff a Project Texas briefing “to share our progress on implementing protocols through Project Texas to address these concerns.”
It is not yet known if the chairman will accept Beckerman’s invitation. What is known, however, is that Green was unsatisfied with the overall response to his queries.
Green also told the Daily Mail that the “threat of TikTok” has never been clearer.
“In a letter I received from TikTok,” the chairman said, “I was told that it is possible CCP-connected engineers could have a role in writing the app's source code. This puts the data of Americans in danger.
“The amount of ways the CCP can use technology to oppress its own people and harm Americans is endless,” he added. “Yet, millions of Americans are giving this regime a window into their lives through apps like TikTok.”
TikTok continues to be closely scrutinized by U.S. lawmakers. Last March the White House endorsed Senate legislation to give the federal government the power to regulate or ban TikTok and other social media platforms tied to foreign adversaries. On May 17, Montana became the first U.S. state to enact a complete ban on the Chinese-owned social app.
The measure, signed by Montana GOP Gov. Greg Gianforte, is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2024. On Monday, TikTok filed suit in U.S. federal court to challenge the new law.
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