Forbes obtained a draft of a contract between TikTok and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) that would have granted unprecedented access to multiple US agencies to the app's records and operations.
Many of the concessions that the government demanded of TikTok resemble the surveillance techniques that critics have accused Chinese officials of exploiting. While concerns remain that the CCP uses the app as a surveillance tool, the federal government almost converted it into an American one.
According to Forbes, the draft agreement that was comprised in the Summer of 2022 would have given the Department of Justice and Department of Defense more access to TikTok than any other social media company. The agreement would have granted these federal agencies to search TikTok's US headquarters, files, and servers without notice.
It would also allow US officials to stop changes to the app's terms of service, and require TikTok to pay for all audits. The agreement also allows for government agencies to shut down TikTok in the US in certain situations, the outlet reports.
In a statement issued to Gizmodo, TikTok did not confirm nor deny the draft agreement but instead explained that the company has been working with CFIUS for quite some time.
"As has been widely reported, we’ve been working with CFIUS for well over a year to implement a national security agreement and have invested significant resources in implementing a firewall to isolate US user data," a TikTok spokesperson said. "Today, all new protected US user data is stored in the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure in the US with tightly controlled and monitored gateways. We are doing more than any peer company to safeguard US national security interests."
The draft document reportedly includes comments from ByteDance, TikTok's Chinese-owned parent business, attorneys, and CFIUS. The agreements would allow third-party auditors and source code inspectors to oversee TikTok's US activities if adopted as written, according to Gizmodo.
US politicians and whistleblowers have accused ByteDance leaders of strong ties to the Chinese Communist Party, with the FBI director asserting that TikTok poses a risk to national security.
Four years ago, during Donald Trump's administration, CFIUS began probing ByteDance because of concerns from politicians and the public that Chinese government officials could use it to spy on Americans. TikiTok announced a data routing deal with Oracle named “Project Texas” to keep new US customer data on Oracle's US cloud infrastructure after then-President Trump threatened a ban.
Over the past year, investigations and whistleblower claims have questioned the effectiveness of TikTok's data security promises. The DOJ investigated ByteDance after multiple workers were discovered snooping on users and journalists investigating the company. In December, the Senate unanimously passed a TikTok ban on all government devices.
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