TikTok Left 'Enormous' Amount of User Data Open to Chinese State, Pompeo Claims

Facing intense U.S. pressure, TikTok has now been accused of leaving "enormous data sets" open to China's national security apparatus.

The short-form video app, which is currently owned by a Beijing-based tech firm called ByteDance, has been threatened with a ban in the States, with officials claiming that it could be exploited by the foreign state to access user data of Americans.

Despite one recent cybersecurity researcher suggesting TikTok's data sharing appeared to be no worse than Facebook, secretary of state Mike Pompeo has reiterated the claim that U.S. user information uploaded to the app is at risk of being hijacked.

"If I could raise up from TikTok for a moment, for us, this is a national security issue," he said during a speech in the city of Prague, Czech Republic, yesterday. "This is about data sets, and we know Europe cares about private information.

"This is about data sets that were clearly available to the Chinese Communist Party's national security apparatus. Enormous data sets. That's just not something that the United States is prepared to permit," he added, without elaborating.

Pompeo had been responding to a question asking him to discuss the claim that TikTok poses a "risk to protection of personal data of the American citizens."

Last week, the Trump administration released a pair of broad executive orders promising to crack down on U.S. "transactions" with the owners of TikTok and WeChat, a social media and messaging app owned by China's vast Tencent Holdings Ltd.

President Donald Trump has pushed for TikTok's operations to be sold to an American company, with Microsoft recently confirming that it is exploring a deal. But with a deadline set for mid-September, it remains unclear if a viable purchase will be possible.

Addressing the enforcement, Pompeo indicated in his speech that the crackdown may be broader than just TikTok or WeChat, as CNBC reported today.

"When President Trump made his announcement about not only TikTok, but about WeChat—and if you read it, it's broader even still than that—is that we're going to make sure that American data not end up in the hands of an adversary like the Chinese Communist Party for whom we have seen data uses in Western China that rival the greatest human rights violations in the history of mankind," Pompeo said.

The U.S. has not released technical evidence that TikTok or ByteDance has been caught sharing user data with the Chinese state over the years. For its part, officials at TikTok have said U.S. user data is stored in America, with backups in Singapore.

TikTok had enjoyed a huge surge in downloads this year, but its rivals are now growing. Facebook recently launched a similar service in Instagram, called Reels.

TikTok has been contacted for comment by Newsweek.

In an earlier statement, a TikTok spokesperson rejected the U.S. officials' claims of data misuse, saying: "TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S.

"We have no higher priority than promoting a... secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would do so if asked."

In this photo illustration, the download page for the TikTok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone on August 7, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty