TikTok Correcting the Record: Servers Already Separate from ByteDance

TikTok, through court documents, is trying to correct the record by saying that its servers are already separate from ByteDance.

The TikTok saga just keeps on going. Late last month, a judge halted the Trump ban of the platform. Later on, the judge said that it intend on holding a hearing on November 4th – a day after the US general elections.

One of the demands raised by the Trump administration is that the US operations must be separate from China. In fact, moving TikTok’s headquarters to the US has been part of the TikTok Oracle Walmart deal which aimed to win favor of the impeached president.

Now, TikTok is trying to correct the record on a few assertions made by the chaotic administration. In court documents, TikTok says that their operations have been mischaracterized by the administration. From The Verge:

Roland Cloutier, global chief security officer for TikTok, says in a new court filing, in advance of an upcoming hearing in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, that the Commerce Department made several incorrect assertions about the company’s data security policies and practices.

Cloutier says a September memo from the Commerce Department outlining specific concerns with the app is inaccurate in stating TikTok is not separate from the Chinese version of the app — called Douyin — or from parent company ByteDance’s systems, and that “functionality including storage, internal management, and algorithms is still partially shared across other ByteDance products.”

He says the software stack comprising TikTok is “entirely separate” from the Douyin software stack, meaning each app’s source code and user data are maintained separately.

The government also mischaracterized how TikTok stores US user data, Cloutier says. The commerce memo states that TikTok leases servers from Alibaba Cloud in Singapore and China Unicom Americas (CUA) in the US, which constitute “significant risks.”

Cloutier says CUA provides data center space — the building and electricity — for TikTok, but doesn’t provide servers. ByteDance owns and operates all servers that are stored within the CUA facility, Cloutier says, and the servers are locked within a cage in the facility.

When TikTok does lease server space from other companies, Cloutier adds, it does not mean that company has access to TikTok’s proprietary information. User data is encrypted in storage, and sharded, meaning it’s broken into several pieces across several servers, he said.

So, according to the TikTok court documents, current TikTok operations already satisfy some of the Trump administrations demands.

It’s unclear if this will do anything to sway the conspiracy theory driven administration, but fortunately, that is not required here. The person that needs to be convinced is a judge. With the ban being thwarted already for the time being, it seems that momentum is on TikTok’s side for now.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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