TikTok Opens Data Centre in Dublin to Ease Privacy Concerns

TikTok has activated its first European data centre in Ireland’s capital, Dublin. The aim is to counter concerns about the safety of user data and possible access by the Chinese government. Theo Bertram, TikTok’s vice president of public policy in Europe, promises a “specially reinforced protective environment” around European user data.

Why Dublin Matters

The Dublin centre is not a lone effort; it’s part of a larger plan. Ireland will host another centre, and Norway will get one too. By the end of 2024, TikTok aims to transfer all data of users from the European Economic Area (EEA), the UK, and Switzerland to these centres. Previously, data was stored only in the US and Singapore.

Independent Audits

To gain user trust, TikTok has engaged NCC Group, a UK-based cybersecurity firm, to conduct independent audits. The company will monitor data flows and report any incidents, ensuring that TikTok’s European data stays secure.

Project Clover: More Than Just a Data Centre

Dublin’s data centre is a component of Project Clover, an overarching data security initiative. In the US, a parallel initiative called Project Texas exists, where American users’ data will be stored on Oracle servers. Both projects aim to secure data locally, making it harder for unauthorized parties to gain access.

European Institutions Ban TikTok

The European Parliament, the European Commission, and the EU Council have previously prohibited the use of the TikTok app on their officials’ devices. The UK government has also implemented a similar ban. These bans have intensified the debate around TikTok’s data privacy and its links to China.

Changes to the TikTok App in Europe

To comply with the EU’s Digital Services Act, TikTok has reconfigured its app. European users can now report illegal content more easily, and targeted ads have been disabled for younger users between 3 and 17 years old.


Criticism and Concerns

The concern is not just hypothetical. Last year, TikTok informed its European users that staff in China might access their data to ensure a “consistent, enjoyable, and safe” platform experience. Critics argue that this leaves the door open for the Chinese state to request access at any point.

Transparency Efforts

Elaine Fox, TikTok’s head of privacy for Europe, states that Project Clover involves more than just data centres. According to her, personal data of users in the EEA and the UK will undergo “additional security gateways” before anyone can access it.

What Experts Are Saying

Stephen Bailey, the global director of privacy at NCC Group, argues that their objective scrutiny will enable European and UK TikTok users to trust the enhanced data security measures. According to him, TikTok’s measures exceed European regulatory requirements.

Why This Is Not Just About Europe

Data security measures at the European data centres will also protect user information from the UK and Switzerland. The company will apply the same rigorous protocols for these countries as for users in the European Economic Area (EEA).

This effort comes after a series of global concerns and allegations about TikTok data being manipulated or accessed by the Chinese government, which TikTok has always denied. By engaging in these multifaceted approaches to secure data, TikTok aims to quash lingering questions about its data handling policies.

TikTok’s ongoing efforts to open new data centres and bring in independent auditing aim to win back trust, ensuring that European data stays in Europe, and away from prying eyes. TikTok’s situation is far from settled, but these actions show that the company is keen to address issues that have long raised eyebrows.