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TikTok employees in China reportedly accessed U.S. users’ data

Yahoo Finance's Jennifer Schonberg joins the Live show to detail a report by BuzzFeed indicating TikTok employees in China have access to U.S. users' data and the outlook on action the Biden administration may take against the foreign tech company.

Video Transcript

- Leaked audio from 80 internal TikTok meetings showing that TikTok employees based in China have, quote, "repeatedly accessed US users' data for the last several months." Jennifer Schonberger is tracking this story for us. And Jennifer, we know that this has been in question and something that the US government has talked about numerous times in the past. But what can you tell us about this new report?

JENNIFER SCHONBERGER: Good afternoon, Seana. That's right. A new report out showing that Chinese employees of popular app TikTok have gained access to US user data, potentially exposing Americans' personal information to China's government. All of this raising questions about whether the company misled US lawmakers about employees' access to data.

BuzzFeed reports that leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings reveals that China-based employees of TikTok parent company ByteDance have repeatedly accessed non-public data about US TikTok users. Though unclear whether the Chinese government has used this data for spying. Lawmakers in US intelligence are concerned TikTok's data collection, including audio and user's location, offers the potential for the Chinese government to gain access to information.

Now, a TikTok executive told lawmakers last October in testimony that TikTok's user data is stored in the US and does not share information with the Chinese government. TikTok has announced that it would move all data from its American users through servers controlled by Oracle in Texas. But it also reportedly said it would still store its own backups of that information.

Now, Senator Marsha Blackburn's office telling me in a statement today, quote, "TikTok has been stealing Americans data. Big tech and communist China must be stopped." US officials have repeatedly voiced concern over this app. Back in 2019, the Pentagon advised members of the military to exercise caution in using this app and in certain instances banned it.

Now, former President Trump, back in 2020, also sought to ban the app, or at least get the US operations sold to a US-based company, though President Biden signed an executive order overturning the Trump-era actions. All of this coming just as the Biden administration examining whether they should roll back Trump-era tariffs that are contributing to higher inflation just as many are criticizing the administration for being soft on China. Guys, no word yet on whether lawmakers are going to take renewed action based on this report.