European and UK TikTok users will have data sent to staff in China, app confirms

TikTok has told its UK and European users that their data will be accessible by some employees in China, admitting for the first time that the data isn’t just locally stored amid concerns of potential misuse.

The Chinese-owned social video app has spelt out the rules as part of an updated privacy policy, confirming that staff in some countries including China will have access to the UK and European data.

The app says the move aims to ensure a “consistent, enjoyable and safe” experience for its users, adding that its “privacy policy” was “based on a demonstrated need to do their job”.

Apart from China, other countries where the European and British user data could be accessed by TikTok staff include Brazil, Canada and Israel as well as the US and Singapore.

The new rules will be applicable from 2 December, the app said.

“Based on a demonstrated need to do their job, subject to a series of robust security controls and approval protocols, and by way of methods that are recognised under the GDPR [the EU’s general data protection regulation], we allow certain employees within our corporate group located in Brazil, Canada, China, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States, remote access to TikTok European user data,” TikTok’s head of privacy in Europe, Elaine Fox, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Our efforts are centred on limiting the number of employees with access to European user data, minimising data flows outside of the region, and storing European user data locally,” she added.

The admission from the platform comes amid rising questions over the access of user data in countries including the US, the UK and others and the fears of its misuse by the Chinese government under its tight controls.

TikTok’s owner ByteDance has repeatedly denied its data can be accessed by the Chinese government. However, there have been demands to ban the popular app over fears.

Earlier this week, a US official called for the app to be banned in America. The app has also been investigated by Irish data protection commission with several governments including the UK distancing from operating an official government account on the platform.