'TikTok must give assurances that Irish users' data isn't being used in China,' Senator says

'Tiktok Must Give Assurances That Irish Users' Data Isn't Being Used In China,' Senator Says
TikTok needs to give further assurances that private data of Irish and European citizens is not being transferred to China, according to Senator Malcolm Byrne.
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James Cox

TikTok needs to give further assurances that private data of Irish and European citizens is not being transferred to China, according to Senator Malcolm Byrne.

The Fianna Fáil Senator has called for the social media company to come before the Oireachtas Media Committee to discuss ongoing concerns regarding data privacy, particularly in light of the European Parliament’s decision to ban its use by staff.


He said social media companies are already due to address the committee on March 29th. While the main topics will be around their handling of disinformation, Mr Byrne said data privacy and security could be added to the agenda.

Mr Byrne told BreakingNews.ie: "Our concern would obviously be that if any data that may be held by TikTok by the 1.5 million users from Ireland and throughout the EU... if any of that data was passed over to the Chinese authorities."

The Wexford Senator said a "knee-jerk reaction" is unnecessary. He also pointed out that TikTok had been very open in discussions around the Online Safety And Media Regulation Bill, which was signed into law in December 2022.

"When I and others met them privately and raised these issues, they've always been very clear that any Irish or European citizen's data always remains within the European Union, that it won't be transferred to a country like China."


Malcolm Byrne has called on TikTok to appear before the Oireachtas Media Committee. Photo: Collins

Mr Byrne said further assurances would be needed over data not being transferred to China.

He pointed out that the Chinese Communist Party has links to all business in the country.

"TikTok have been strong in making clear any data collected in the EU remains in the EU, that it doesn't flow from data centres here to China, so we need to hear and get those assurances again. We also need to hear from regulators and independent regulators... their perspective on these issues.


"The difficulty of course is that TikTok is a Chinese-owned company and any company that is based out of China effectively has Chinese government input into its board, it's not an entirely independent private company.

"In China, under their national security law, they can require employees of companies to reveal information and data to them."

He added: "I don't think there should be a knee-jerk reaction, I think it's important that TikTok outline what procedures they have in place, I think it's also important that we hear from the Data Protection Commissioner here and indeed the National Cyber Security Centre who have the expertise within this area.

"I would certainly be very concerned if users' data was being unknowingly shared by a company with the Chinese authorities. There are plenty of examples of the Chinese Communist Party misusing data it has gathered on its own citizens, so I think we need to be particularly careful if there are any implications of data of European citizens ending up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.


"We know the Communist Party in China uses surveillance technology to effectively monitor its own citizens and even give them social credit scores. We have a responsibility to ensure Irish and EU citizens are kept safe, that our data is not misused.

Data is the oil of the 21st century.

"It is important to give TikTok the opportunity to respond, it was probably unfortunate I think that it seems the European Commission didn't engage directly with TikTok on these issues.

"Data is the oil of the 21st century, and we need to know how it is managed and protected, equally it is key for users who have to be aware of data they are sharing with social media apps including those which use facial recognition technology."


Concerns were recently raised about Chinese cameras at Leinster House, and Mr Byrne said he was one of the politicians who opposed facial recognition technology from Huawei being introduced at Leinster House two years ago.

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"I opposed proposals to the Oireacthas Commission of logging in and out with facial recognition technology designed by Huawei considered for use in Leinster House, the commission eventually dropped that.

"There are legitimate concerns around the use by China of particular forms of technology. We've got to be certain any technology we use is safe."

He concluded: "TikTok should address concerns and face consequences if they do not.

"There needs to be very clear assurances data is not being transferred from Ireland and the EU to China. We need them to be explicit that even if a request came from the Chinese government, TikTok in Europe would ignore it."

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