TikTok Launches ‘Transparency Center’ to Appease Critics of Chinese Spying

Shou Zi Chew, chief executive officer of TikTok Inc., speaks during the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore, on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. The New Economy Forum is being organized by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. Photographer: Bryan van der Beek/Bloomberg …
Bryan van der Beek/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Chinese-owned social media company TikTok has reportedly launched a new “Transparency and Accountability Center” in an effort to address concerns about the national security implications of allowing the app accused of spying on Americans to operate in the United States.

The Verge reports that TikTok is up against legislators including Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) who are now calling for the banning of the popular Chinese-owned social media app from the United States after some universities, and federal employee devices have already blocked it. In response to these complaints, TikTok opened a new “Transparency and Accountability Center” in Los Angeles to resolve security procedures issues.

Josh Hawley

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 20: The TikTok logo is displayed outside a TikTok office on December 20, 2022 in Culver City, California. Congress is pushing legislation to ban the popular Chinese-owned social media app from most government devices. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

 (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The center’s opening is a component of TikTok’s larger public relations effort, Project Texas. This project aims to offer an alternative to a ban by proposing a solution that would partition American user data. In what could be a pivotal moment for TikTok’s future in the US, the CEO of the company is anticipated to testify before Congress in March.

The Chinese company claims the goal of the center is to give academics, auditors, and regulators a deeper understanding of TikTok’s security procedures. The center has been equipped with sizable touchscreens and a server room where auditors can allegedly examine the source code. However, the information provided there is hazy and seems to be intended more for politicians than experts.

Despite the apparent openness and accountability TikTok is displaying, some people see the center as a publicity stunt rather than a genuine attempt to address issues. Instead of providing meaningful transparency, the absence of clear information and hazy presentations are perceived as an effort to manipulate the public.

Due to a combination of growing distrust of the Chinese government and an internal leak investigation, TikTok’s trust deficit in the US has gotten worse recently. Because of this, the business will have difficulty persuading the public and regulators of its dedication to security and privacy.

The pandemic caused TikTok to postpone its initial plan to launch the Transparency and Accountability Center in 2020. Since then, the business has been battling to regain its footing, and the current circumstance is not helping. Since the US market is one of TikTok’s biggest and most lucrative, there is a lot at stake. The company’s plans for international expansion would suffer significantly if it were banned in the US.

Breitbart News reporter Alana Mastrangelo explained in a recent column why TikTok should be banned from the United States. In a section focused on national security, she wrote:

The National Security Threat

TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, which — under China’s laws — can be forced to hand over the data TikTok has collected on U.S. citizens to the Chinese Communist Party. And TikTok collects a plethora of data on American citizens.

In October, it was reported that ByteDance planned to use TikTok to monitor the physical location of specific American citizens. Then in November, TikTok admitted that its employees in China can access the private data of accounts based in other countries.

Currently, TikTok is hoping to sign an accord with the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which assesses national security risks presented by foreign companies.

But security experts say TikTok users would still risk having their personal data exposed to hacking and espionage by China, even if the U.S. government were to set up a security agreement designed to keep the app from being banned.

Read more at the Verge here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.