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Data center in Ireland should better protect data of European users

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The Chinese network Tiktok wants to open a data center in Ireland. But data protection experts are unlikely to be completely satisfied with this.

Tiktok is rebuilding: The social network with Chinese roots is currently making particular efforts to ensure the trust of Western users. Now the company has announced that it plans to build a new data center in Ireland – the first in Europe. “The announcement follows a process that began last year,” emphasizes the company in order not to make the move appear in connection with current developments in the USA.

The investment in Ireland of around 420 million euros is intended to play a key role in data protection for European user data. The data center, which is slated to open in early 2022, is not really a surprise. Because the network, which is said to already have over 800 million users worldwide, has meanwhile also achieved such a status in Western Europe that a data center on site was to be expected. In this respect, it is not least about “faster loading times, which will give our Tiktok community an even better app experience,” as the press release emphasizes. “Ireland already plays an important role in our growth in Europe. Since we established our presence in Ireland with our Trust and Safety Hub in Dublin at the beginning of 2020, our team in Ireland has also grown, ”explains Roland Cloutier, Head of Safety at Tiktok.

Tiktok Ireland is to be jointly responsible with Tiktok UK for the administration and data protection of the European users (in the entire European economic area and in Switzerland). Indeed, Europe could also play a crucial role in the company’s headquarters: two weeks ago it became known that representatives of the group had negotiated with the British government to move the headquarters to London. The negotiations, which are said to have already taken place after the completion of Brexit, were ended due to the economic conflict in a trade war between Great Britain and China.

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Data protection: how independent can Tiktok be?

Tiktok could have got rid of the criticism in terms of data protection at least superficially and in part. Bytedance, the company behind Tiktok, is regularly suspected of cooperating with the Chinese government. That is ultimately the reason for the planned rebuilding measures in the USA, during which Bytedance could withdraw in favor of Microsoft.

The extent to which Chinese authorities can influence the network’s European data remains open. While critics fear that the Chinese government could gain access to sensitive data, and privacy advocates point to Tiktok’s terms of use, which allow the company to share user data with Bytedance, the company explains in its Transparency report, the Chinese authorities have not received any requests for user data. In the end, it will remain speculation as long as there is no concrete evidence – and both Tiktok and the Chinese government will do everything to ensure that it stays that way. Such suspicions were honestly not only against the Chinese government, but also against authorities from the USA or other states outside the European Union.

However, the fact that Tiktok is primarily a young target group, some of whom are still minors, is particularly tricky: around 10.7 million monthly active users are said to have an average daily usage time of more than 60 minutes, with the user using the app opens twelve times in the Schmitt. The users are still mainly young, even if Tiktok emphasizes that the average age of the German population is being approached. 24 percent should be between 13 and 17 years of age, 43 percent between 18 and 24 years of age, but 22 percent should be between 25 and 34 years of age.

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