ByteDance Plans To Use TikTok To Surveil American Citizens — Forbes

ByteDance’s Internal Audit and Risk Control planned to utilize the TikTok app to monitor the personal location of some particular American individuals.

The team’s primary responsibility is to investigate potential misbehavior by current and former ByteDance employees. However, according to materials reviewed by Forbes, the Internal Audit team planned to acquire TikTok data about the location of a US resident who had never had an employment relationship with the company in at least two cases.

It is unclear whether data on these Americans was actually obtained; but, the plan was for a Beijing-based team to obtain location data from the devices of U.S. users.

Song Ye, headquartered in Beijing, leads the department and reports to ByteDance cofounder and CEO Rubo Liang.

According to TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan, TikTok gathers approximate location information based on users’ IP addresses to “among other things, help show relevant content and ads to users, comply with applicable laws, and detect and prevent fraud and inauthentic behavior.”

This is contrary to the documents reviewed by Forbes, which suggested that ByteDance’s Internal Audit team intended to utilize this location information to spy on specific American individuals, not to target adverts or for any of these other uses.

TikTok is reportedly close to signing a contract with the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which assesses the national security risks posed by companies with foreign ownership. The agency has also been investigating whether the company’s Chinese ownership could allow the Chinese government access to personal information about American users of the app.

The Internal Audit and Risk Control team conducts frequent audits and investigations of TikTok and ByteDance personnel for violations such as conflicts of interest and misappropriation of business resources, as well as secret information leaks. The documents reviewed by Forbes has shown that senior officials, including TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, directed the team to probe individual employees, and the team researched employees even after they departed the company.

“Like most companies our size, we have an internal audit function responsible for objectively auditing and evaluating the company and our employees’ adherence to our codes of conduct,” said ByteDance spokesperson Jennifer Banks in a statement. “This team provides its recommendations to the leadership team.”

TikTok did not respond to Forbes’ concerns concerning the status of the company’s conversations with CFIUS. TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter told Bloomberg this morning: “We are confident that we are on a path to fully satisfy all reasonable US national security concerns.”

Information for this briefing was found via Forbes. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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