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TikTok Says The US Commerce Department Mischaracterised How It Stores And Secure Data

According to TikTok, the US Commerce Department has mischaracterised how it stores and secures user data. The company made the argument via its global chief security officer, Roland Cloutier, as it prepares a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s looming ban.


Cloutier, in a new court filing, in advance of an upcoming hearing in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, says that the Commerce Department made several incorrect assertions about the TikTok’s data security policies and practices.


He references a September 2020 memo from the Commerce Department in the filing. The memo outlined specific concerns stating that TikTok is not separate from the Chinese version of the app, Douyin. It also states that it is not separate from parent company ByteDance’s system, all of which he says are inaccurate.

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The memo alleges that “functionality including storage, internal management, and algorithms is still partially shared across other ByteDance products.” He says the software stack comprising TikTok is “entirely separate” from the Douyin software stack. This means the app maintains both app’s source code and user data separately.


According to the memo, TikTok leases servers from Alibaba Cloud in Singapore and China Unicom Americas (CUA) in the US, constituting “significant risks”. However, Cloutier says CUA provides only data center space for TikTok but doesn’t provide servers. He says ByteDance owns and operates all the servers stored within the CUA facility and that in the event that TikTok leases server space from other companies, that company does not have access to TikTok’s proprietary information. Instead, it encrypts and shards user data.


What this means is that TikTok splits the user data into several pieces across several servers. Cloutier adds that TikTok would not comply with a request for user data from the Chinese government, addressing another concern of the commerce department regarding US user data.


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