Since Tiktok has been available in app stores around the world, the platform has been criticized by privacy advocates. The Chinese company has now announced that employees in China will be able to access the data of European users in the future.

Tiktok is on the way to becoming the most important social network in the world. No other platform is growing as fast as the Chinese video app and is particularly popular with younger users. But data protection officials warned early on: Tiktok is owned by the Chinese state, and some called the harmless app a “data octopus”.

Now light could come into the opaque data protection situation. Not in a good way, though. As the British “Guardian” reports, Tiktok is informing its users in Europe of a change in data protection guidelines these days. Many will probably only acknowledge the pop-up message with an annoyed press on the “Accept” button, but it’s tough.

Tiktok: Chinese employees will be able to access European data in the future

Because Tiktok is pointing out to its European users that their data can in future be viewed by employees outside the continent, including in China. The reason for this is political and regulatory concerns about Chinese access to user data.

Tiktok wants to be able to access user data to ensure that the use of the platform is “consistent, pleasant and safe”, it says. The company can already access the data of European users from other countries. These states include Brazil, Canada and Israel, as well as the United States and Singapore, where European user data is currently stored.

Elaine Fox, Head of Privacy at Tiktok in Europe, explained in a blog post: “Based on a proven need and subject to a set of security controls and approval protocols using methods recognized under the EU General Data Protection Regulation, we allow certain employees within our group of companies in Brazil, Canada, China, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and the United States remote access to Tiktok’s European user data.”

Change in privacy policy on December 2nd

The data could be used for different aspects of the platform. Including improving the algorithms that recommend content to users and recognizing automated accounts. Tiktok has already acknowledged that employees of parent company ByteDance in China have access to some user data.

Political pressure from China to access usage of the data generated by the app appears to be behind the update to the data protection guidelines, which apply to the European area, Switzerland and the United Kingdom and will come into force on December 2nd.

In recent years, Tiktok and its privacy policies have been a point of contention, particularly between China and the US. The US Department of Commerce has been tasked with drafting privacy recommendations for China.

The Irish data regulator, which oversees Tiktok across the EU, has also launched an investigation into “Tiktok’s transfers of personal data to China”. In a blog post last year, TikTok stated that the company was “compliant” with European law.

Sources: The Guardian blog post on the privacy change