UK MP Warns of TikTok Data Grab as Soros Claims Beijing Has Access to 'Inner Workings' of ByteDance
In April, a Chinese government fund bought a 1% stake in a domestic subsidiary of TikTok’s owner ByteDance. The video-sharing app remains one of the world’s most downloaded applications, despite the Trump administration’s famous onslaught on the platform.
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat has warned about the growing power of China’s “security state” while claiming that the Chinese viral app TikTok could threaten the privacy of Britons.
Tugendhat, who is chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said on Saturday that “The US stopped the sale of Grindr to a Chinese firm because they were rightly concerned at the risk to the privacy of Americans.”
“TikTok tracks the dreams of many more and its data is now heading towards a security state that keeps its own citizens on an electronic leash. It could now try the same with our citizens,” the Conservative MP was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying.
The warnings come following a recent article by George Soros where he claimed that Beijing had now gained access to the “inner workings” of ByteDance – the developer and owner of TikTok.
In April, WangTouZhongWen (Beijing) Technology, which is owned by three Chinese state entities, bought a minor stake in a domestic subsidiary of ByteDance.
The deal did not give the Chinese government any stake in TikTok thanks to the company’s elaborate corporate structure, but permitted the state-owned company to appoint a board director at the ByteDance unit.
ByteDance explained to Reuters that the domestic subsidiary only relates “to some of ByteDance’s China-market video and information platforms, and holds some of the licences they require to operate under local law”.
Soros still maintains that the acquisition not only gave Beijing “one seat on a three-person board of directors” at ByteDance but also “first-hand access to the inner workings of a company that has one of the world’s largest troves of personal data”.
TikTok, which this summer became the first non-Facebook-owned app to hit the 3 million download threshold, has long been gripped by a privacy accusations saga.
Former US President Donald Trump tried to ban downloads of the app in the US and transactions between its owner and American citizens last year, unless TikTok was sold to American companies. These orders never took effect. In June 2021, Joe Biden withdrew the Trump-era executive orders, effectively taking TikTok off the hook.
ByteDance says it is ‘committed to protecting the privacy and safety of the TikTok community’ and has long denied data sharing with the Chinese government. The company notes that it collects far less data than Google or Facebook.