TikTok is trying to prove to European regulators it’s a safe social media platform for European user’s information. Earlier this month (Nov. 8), TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew traveled to Europe and met with French President Emmanuel Macron, German ministers and European Union commissioners to address growing concerns around data security on the short-form video platform.
According to a briefing from Theo Bertram, TikTok’s vice president of European public policy, Chew updated the officials on the company’s Project Clover, an initiative launched in May to protect user data in Europe. The initial goals outlined in Project Clover strove to keep TikTok’s European data local by building data centers on the continent, minimizing data transfers outside of Europe and reducing employee access to user data.
Chew said TikTok has already established a data center in Dublin, Ireland and is building two more, another in Ireland and one in Norway. In addition, the company said “employees based in China,” where TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is headquartered, will not be able to access user data stored in those data centers.
TikTok also promised it will let a third-party company audit its data protection efforts and report its findings independently to regulators. The company has hired the cybersecurity firm NCC Group to fulfill that task, according to the briefing.
Chew became the CEO of TikTok in May 2021. He was a newcomer to ByteDance and had only spent two months there as chief financial officer before leading TikTok. Chew is the public face of the company for much of the past year. He testified before the U.S. Congress in May over a potential ban of TikTok in the U.S. legislators were considering. He’s continued showing up to make the case for TikTok to Western leaders and regulators since.
TikTok is fighting a legal battle with the E.U. surrounding its designation as a “gatekeeper” of the digital market under the Digital Markets Act (DMA). This means TikTok has to comply with E.U. rules, such as to “allow third parties to inter-operate with the gatekeeper’s own services in certain specific situations” and “allow their business users to access the data that they generate in their use of the gatekeeper’s platform.”
The gatekeeper designation by the E.U. is designed to identify large tech companies like TikTok that have the potential to gain too much power in the digital market. Making TikTok comply with the DMA is supposed to help create an environment where its competitors can grow. But TikTok is appealing to have the label removed as it may hinder its business expansion in Europe.
According to the briefing, 134 million people in Europe use TikTok every month. TikTok also stated in February that the figure was over 150 million visitors each month. Insider Intelligence estimates TikTok will have over 100 million monthly users in Western Europe next year and that a quarter of that region’s population will be on TikTok by 2026.