TikTok Parent ByteDance Admits Tracking Location Of Journalists Covering The Firm

ByteDance has confirmed that it utilized TikTok to track journalists’ whereabouts using their IP addresses. The Chinese tech firm conducted an internal investigation and discovered that employees tracked multiple journalists covering the company, improperly gaining access to their location and user data in an attempt to determine whether they had been in the same locations as ByteDance employees.

The findings of ByteDance’s internal inquiry, which was led by the company’s global legal compliance team in collaboration with an outside law firm, were announced today in an email to employees.

General counsel Erich Andersen wrote to staff that a “misguided plan was developed and carried out by a few individuals within the Internal Audit department this past summer,” adding that those involved “misused their authority to obtain access to TikTok user data” in violation of its code of conduct.

ByteDance removed Chris Lepitak, its chief internal auditor who led the team responsible for the monitoring measures, as a result of the investigation. Song Ye, the Chinese executive to whom Lepitak reported and who reports directly to ByteDance CEO Rubo Liang, resigned.

In a separate email, Liang said that the business needs to “deeply reflect on our actions and think about how we can prevent similar incidents from happening again.”

“I was deeply disappointed when I was notified of the situation… and I’m sure you feel the same,” Liang wrote. “The public trust that we have spent huge efforts building is going to be significantly undermined by the misconduct of a few individuals. … I believe this situation will serve as a lesson to us all.”

The inquiry, dubbed Project Raven internally, began this summer when BuzzFeed News published a piece exposing that ByteDance workers in China had routinely accessed U.S. customer data, based on more than 80 hours of audio recordings of internal TikTok meetings.

READ: ByteDance Plans To Use TikTok To Surveil American Citizens — Forbes

According to internal ByteDance papers seen by Forbes, Project Raven was approved by ByteDance personnel in China, engaged the company’s Chief Security and Privacy Office, was known to TikTok’s Head of Global Legal Compliance, and was known to the company’s Chief Security and Privacy Office. It tracked three Forbes journalists who previously worked at BuzzFeed News: Emily Baker-White, Katharine Schwab, and Richard Nieva.

“I don’t know when they first tried to track me, but I am comforted by the fact that I never gotten into using TikTok the app,” Baker-White said in an interview.

The results of the investigation don’t bode well for the social media firm as it faces surmounting bans and restrictions, mostly in the United States.

READ: Tick-tock On TikTok: More Probes, Bans On Chinese-Based Social Media Platform

Information for this briefing was found via Forbes and The Financial times. 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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