TikTok Freezes Hiring Of Consultants For Contentious U.S. Security Deal

TikTok has ceased its hiring process for third-party consultants that would facilitate a potential security agreement with the United States as resistance to such a deal among U.S. officials grows.

TikTokPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

The short-video app, owned by Chinese technology conglomerate ByteDance, has attempted for the last three years to convince the U.S. government that users’ personal data cannot be accessed or manipulated by China’s Communist Party or related entities.

Former President Donald Trump’s 2021 executive order ban on TikTok in the United States has since been revoked by President Joe Biden. His administration has continued negotiations with the media company in attempts to reach an agreement that would prevent ByteDance from forcibly divesting TikTok.

As part of the negotiations, TikTok has been gradually building a program to assure the U.S. government that it would comply with their security agreement.

The steps include: hiring a third-party monitor, a source-code inspector, and three auditors, including one dedicated to cyber security and one to ensure that U.S. user data on existing TikTok servers will be deleted following migration to Oracle Corp. It’s reported that these positions would be paid for by TikTok but report to U.S. government officials.

TikTok posted some of the roles in early December with the goal of moving potential candidates forward for approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the security panel that has been scrutinizing ByteDance’s ownership of the popular social media app.

However, in a perceived complication for the deal, the company informed candidates for these roles in late December that the hiring process was on hold and they would receive an update by the end of January on whether it will resume.

The decision to halt hiring came less than a month after it was revealed in December that several employees improperly accessed user data of two journalists in an attempt to identify the source of information leaks to the broader media.

A spokeswoman for TikTok confirmed that the company had paused the hiring process for third-party security vendors because they have yet to receive approval of the security agreement by CFIUS, adding that TikTok had hoped it would have reached a deal with the U.S. government by now.

Biden signed a bill into law last month banning federal employees — about 4 million — from using TikTok on government-issued devices, following similar bans by some states and local authorities.

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