Personal Data About Paid U.S. TikTok Creators Is Probably Stored in China

Alexandra S. Levine, Forbes:

TikTok has acknowledged to the U.S. government that sensitive information about American creators who sign up to earn money through the app is stored in China.

There are two long paragraphs which follow this statement in which Levine reports on a letter sent by TikTok to U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn in response to fourteen questions they posed. What is most notable, to me, is how TikTok does not acknowledge in that letter (PDF) that TikTok creator information is actually stored in China. In fact, TikTok goes out of its way to avoid any such impression, while subtly acknowledging that it treats user data and creator data differently:

[…] The Forbes reporter conflated two categories of data, and we stand by the statements made by our company executives to Congress. We appreciate this meaningful opportunity to offer clarity. We were asked about, and our testimony focused on, the protected user data collected in the app — not creator data. Creators are individuals who, unlike typical users, want to build audiences for their content and seek monetization opportunities. To do so, they enter into contracts to engage in commercial activity with our company, have public accounts, and potentially earn revenue. Forbes appears to be referencing the signed contracts and related documents of these U.S. creators.

TikTok’s headquarters are located in Los Angeles and Singapore — it writes in response to question nine that “TikTok is provided in the United States by TikTok Inc., which is incorporated in California and subject to U.S. laws and regulations.” — and its parent company is located in the Cayman Islands on paper and for financial reasons. Why would employment-type data about creators need to be anywhere near China? It is a mystery.