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TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies during a hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, on March 23.Jose Luis Magana/The Associated Press

Tik Tok chief executive Shou Zi Chew told a Vancouver audience he could almost guarantee that the Chinese government would not have access to the social media company’s user data, a response that prompted a smattering of laughter from the crowd.

Mr. Chew made his remarks on Thursday during an on-stage interview with Chris Anderson, curator and host of Ted Talks, after Mr. Anderson brought up the issue. The interview was part of the TED2023 conference.

“So, you will say directly to this group that the scenario I talked about of theoretical Chinese government interference into an American election, you can say that will not happen?” said Mr. Anderson, who had earlier asked if the Chinese government is capable of interfering with the TikTok app to influence U.S. elections, and where Mr. Chew would “draw the line in the sand” if it did.

“We can reduce the risk to as close to zero as possible,” Mr. Chew responded.

He has been answering similar questions from policy-makers for weeks. Last month, Mr. Chew was grilled during a U.S. congressional hearing into TikTok’s handling of U.S. user data, and his company’s ties to its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

Governments in countries around the world – including Canada – have banned TikTok on government-owned devices, over concerns about potential use of the app by the Chinese government to harvest data on users. A small number of countries have banned the use of TikTok outright. The U.S. is considering a complete ban, and last week Montana voted to become the first state to ban TikTok within its borders.

In Canada, the federal privacy commissioner, and provincial privacy commissioners in Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, are jointly investigating TikTok to determine whether the company gets valid and meaningful consent from users of its app before it collects, uses and discloses their personal information.

The authorities will also probe the company’s practices regarding younger users, who are the largest demographic using the app.

In a survey of 1,500 people by Toronto Metropolitan University’s Social Media Lab, 76 per cent of respondents aged 18 to 24 said they had TikTok accounts.

Mr. Anderson did not ask Mr. Chew directly about the investigations into his company in Canada. But Mr. Chew did answer questions about TikTok’s handling of American user data, and the progress of Project Texas, an effort by TikTok to move all its American user data to the U.S., and to have only U.S. personnel in charge of data storage. The company has said the files would be stored on servers run by the software company Oracle.

Mr. Chew said the project is “very far along.”

“All new U.S. data is in the Oracle cloud,” he said. He also said that older U.S. TikTok data, which he said is being held mostly in Singapore, would be deleted. But he noted that getting rid of that volume of data is no small task.

“It’s a big engineering effort,” he said, adding that he hopes the data will be deleted by the end of the year.

Mr. Anderson questioned Mr. Chew about the addictive nature of TikTok, noting that the company has an incentive to keep people on its app.

“It’s not true that we want to maximize time spent on the app,” Mr. Chew replied. He cited a time-limit control function that alerts users that they have spent one hour on TikTok.

But when Mr. Anderson asked the audience if anyone had ever seen this alert on their phones, very few raised their hands.

“About 20 people put their hands up, maybe,” Mr. Anderson said after a visual survey of the crowd.

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