With TikTok under US scrutiny, Chinese owner ByteDance beefs up risk analysis team abroad

By Coco FengMinghe Hu
  • TikTok
  • Thursday, 28 Nov 2019

ByteDance’s Trust and Safety team is hiring in Silicon Valley city Mountain View, Singapore and Dublin. These are new positions as the team’s risks analysts were previously all based in Beijing, according to sources. — SCMP

The Chinese owner of viral short video app TikTok, recently under scrutiny in the US over national security concerns, is looking for professionals in Silicon Valley and other regions to monitor public sentiment and analyse local regulations.

The risk analyst positions under ByteDance's Trust and Safety team have been open since last week in three locations: Mountain View, Singapore and Dublin, according to the Beijing-based company’s website.

These are new positions, according to sources close to the matter, who said that the current risk analysis team consists of less than 10 people, all based in Beijing.

The company is also hiring new members to join the risk analysis team in Beijing, which is on an “expansive track”, sources told the Post.

ByteDance declined to comment for this story.

TikTok has been coming under fire from US lawmakers and officials over national security and privacy concerns recently. The US Army announced this month that it was undertaking a security assessment of the app due to national security concerns over the app’s handling of user data, soon after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) launched a national security review of ByteDance's US$1bil (RM4.17bil) acquisition of US social media app Musical.ly, which was later absorbed into TikTok.

The company has repeatedly emphasised TikTok’s independence from China, saying that it stores US user data locally with backup redundancy in Singapore.

This has largely failed to assuage concerns. “TikTok claims they don’t store American user data in China,” Republican Senator Josh Hawley, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, said at a US Senate hearing earlier this month. “That’s nice, but all it takes is one knock on the door of their parent company, based in China, from a Communist Party official, for that data to be transferred to the Chinese government’s hands whenever they want it.”

The app's international growth has also been marred by problems with regulators elsewhere, including in the UK, India and Indonesia. In July, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office announced that it was investigating TikTok over the latter’s handling of children's data privacy. India banned downloads of the app in April this year and Indonesia did the same last year, largely due to concerns about salacious content.

ByteDance’s new risk analysts will be expected to monitor and analyse public perception toward company products through news reports, social media and databases, as well as research and analyse regulatory information in areas including cybersecurity, data privacy and social media, according to the job postings.

The analyst in Mountain View, Silicon Valley will focus on North and South American countries and the one in Singapore will cover East and South-East Asia, while the new hire in Ireland’s capital city will be responsible for the markets in Europe and the Middle East.

The company is seeking candidates with backgrounds in journalism, politics, diplomacy, legal service or risk management and a command of local languages, based on the postings.

TikTok is widely seen as the first Chinese-owned app to achieve overwhelming global success. It has achieved 1.5 billion downloads on the App Store and Google Play worldwide and is currently the third most downloaded non-gaming app of the year, above Facebook and Instagram, according to a recent report by mobile intelligence firm Sensor Tower. – South China Morning Post

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