Tiktok’s attempts to restructure its European operations are facing a review from EU privacy watchdogs, as the video sharing app prepares to sell its US arm to Microsoft.
Last week, Tiktok shifted data about its UK, EU and Swiss users from computer servers in the US to holding bases in the UK and Ireland, as the company prepares to split its American unit from the rest of the business.
The social media app’s US parent Tiktok Inc will no longer manage and safeguard data for users based in the UK and the European Union.
Instead, Tiktok Ireland will control the data of all users in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, while Tiktok UK will do the same for Britons.
Tiktok has subsequently asked Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) to become its main European regulator, in a move that will limit other authorities’ powers to investigate and scrutinise the Chinese-owned company.
The decision now faces a review from an EU taskforce, which was set up in June after European officials raised concerns about Tiktok’s handling of user information.
The Bytedance-owned company sparked criticism after it was found to still be scraping information from iPhone users’ clipboards despite saying it would end the practice.
The DPC said: “Following Tiktok’s announcement that [Tiktok Ireland and Tiktok UK] will become data controllers for users in the EEA, Switzerland and the UK, the DPC asked that the taskforce review the changes being implemented by Tiktok to establish whether the company meets the criteria… to have the DPC as their lead supervisory authority.”
A Tiktok spokesperson said: “We have an ongoing dialogue with the Irish DPC and as these conversations are ongoing, we are not in a position to comment further at this stage.”
It comes as the social media platform edges closer to signing off a deal with US computer giant Microsoft to offload its American operations, in a bid to clean up its image across the Atlantic.
Microsoft has said it is working with the company and the Trump administration on a deal to rescue the firm, amid increasing concerns about its handling of user data.
The firm has catapulted to success during the pandemic, receiving more than 2bn downloads around the world. However, its popularity among younger demographics has sparked concern over its data collection methods.
Tiktok now faces a string of inquiries in Europe, including British and Dutch investigations into how it handles children’s data.
It comes as Boris Johnson yesterday gave Tiktok the green light to move its global headquarters to London, in a move that will likely spark fury from US President Donald Trump.
Trump has long voiced fears that data collected by the social media platform could be handed to the Chinese Communist Party and used for state spying. Tiktok denies the claims.