Testifying in congress, Tik Tok Chief Operating Offiders Vanessa Pappas did not reply directly to a pointed question from Sen. Rob Portman (R—Ohio): "Will TikTok commit to cutting off all data and data flows to China?"
TikTok does not operate in China, Pappas said, though it does have an office in China. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, whose founder is Chinese and has offices in China.
US concerns about TikTok were renewed after a BuzzFeed News report in June, based on leaked meeting audio, said ByteDance employees had accessed US user data on multiple occasions. In a subsequent letter to lawmakers, TikTok acknowledged the ability for China-based individuals to access US user data but highlighted cybersecurity controls that were "overseen by our US-based security team."
"China" is something of a red herring, in that all of these apps and websites funnel user data to unaccountable corporations and authorities. That said, Tik Tok user data "flowing" to China adds particularly hostile, remote and unaccountable end points to this ecology, notwithstanding all the national security and political narratives the likes of Sen. Portman actually care about.