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TikTok says staff in China can access UK and EU user data

TikTok has told its users in the UK and EU that some of its staff in China are able to access data around their accounts.

In an update to its privacy policy, the social media giant’s head of privacy in Europe Elaine Fox said access for staff in China is “based on a demonstrated need to do their job”.

It comes as the video-sharing platform, which has a Chinese parent company, remains under scrutiny from governments around the world, particularly in Europe and the US, over concerns data from users could be passed to the Chinese state – something the company has repeatedly denied it would allow.

In the update, Ms Fox said while TikTok European user data is stored in the US and Singapore, the company allows “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”.

She said there are “robust security controls and approval protocols” in place to protect the data, and the methods used are “recognised under the GDPR” – the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

She said TikTok “does not collect precise location information, whether based on GPS technology or otherwise, from users in Europe”.

In August, an official TikTok account for Parliament was shut down after MPs raised concerns about the platform’s Chinese links and concerns over user data being sent to Beijing.

The relationship between Westminster and Beijing has been severely strained after a number of MPs and peers were sanctioned by the Chinese state for speaking out about human rights abuses.

Theo Bertram, the app’s vice president for government relations and public policy in Europe, told MPs in July: “We have never been asked to provide TikTok user data to the Chinese government, nor would we if asked.”

In her statement, Ms Fox said: “TikTok strives to be open and transparent about how we collect and process our users’ information.

“We’ll continue to work to earn and build trust with our community with updates centred on transparency into our data practices and the investments we’re making in the people, processes and technology to keep our community safe.”