TikTok moves US user data to Oracle servers amid fresh privacy concerns

Data center
(Image credit: Future)

After enduring years of scrutiny regarding its data privacy practices, TikTok has migrated US users' data to servers owned by Oracle US.

As reported by Reuters, the move comes over two years after the Trump administration first pointed the finger at ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese-owned parent company.

In 2020, a US national security panel, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), ordered TikTok to divest its US operations, alleging that the data of US users could find its way into the hands of the Chinese government.

What’s behind the move?

The Biden administration has taken a softer stance regarding regulating ByteDance, choosing not to enforce the order to force it to entirely sell off its US operations. However, reports have been surfacing that don’t paint TikTok’s data handling in the safest light.

Buzzfeed News reported that China-based ByteDance employees had access to the private data of US users between September 2021 and January 2022, according to leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings.

Backup copies of US users’ data are still held on servers located in Singapore according to a blog post by the company, but are set to eventually be deleted as the migration is finalized.

TikTok has also assured users that it is making other operational changes to help ensure data privacy, including establishing a committee with US-based leadership solely to manage US user data for TikTok.

“We know we are among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of US user data,” said a TikTok spokesperson. “We're dedicated to earning and maintaining the trust of our community and will continue to work every day to protect our platform and provide a safe, welcoming, and enjoyable experience for our community.”

Data sovereignty remains a huge issue outside of the US, as governments worldwide seek greater control of where tech companies' data is held.

The EU has made several proposals around the idea of digital sovereignty, calling for more of technology firm’s data to be held within Europe, and many of the Big Four technology firms, including Google, are reflecting this in their products.

Will McCurdy has been writing about technology for over five years. He has a wide range of specialities including cybersecurity, fintech, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, cloud computing, payments, artificial intelligence, retail technology, and venture capital investment. He has previously written for AltFi, FStech, Retail Systems, and National Technology News and is an experienced podcast and webinar host, as well as an avid long-form feature writer.