Following a report from Forbes alleging that TikTok parent company ByteDance had plans to use the app to track American users, the company has taken to social media to deny that the CCP was using the app in this way.
Forbes reported that a China-based team at TikTok‘s parent company, ByteDance, planned to use the app to monitor the location of “specific” American citizens.
TikTok took to Twitter to counter Forbes, suggesting that their reporting lacked “both rigor and journalistic integrity.”
“Specifically,” they wrote, “Forbes chose not to include the portion of our statement that disproved the feasibility of its core allegation: TikTok does not collect precise GPS location information from US users, meaning TikTok could not monitor US users in the way the article suggested.”
They went on to claim that TikTok has “never been used to ‘target' any members of the US government, activists, public figures or journalists,” adding that the app does not “serve them a different content experience than other users.”
TikTok explained that their Internal Audit team acquires data they need to “conduct internal investigations of violations of the company codes of conduct,” adding that “any use of internal audit resources as alleged by Forbes would be grounds for immediate dismissal of company personnel.”
A spokesperson for the app told Forbes that it collects “approximate location information” from users in order to ” help show relevant content and ads to users, comply with applicable laws, and detect and prevent fraud and inauthentic behavior.”
Further investigation, however, revealed that the aforementioned Internal Audit team “was planning to use this location information to surveil individual American citizens, not to target ads or any of these other purposes.”
Given the company's proximity to the Chinese Communist Party, actions such as these pose viable threats to national security.
Forbes’ report revealed that ByteDance’s Internal Audit team had plans to use location information to surveil American individuals, rather than use for targeted ads.
According to the report, “But in at least two cases, the Internal Audit team also planned to collect TikTok data about the location of a US citizen who had never had an employment relationship with the company, the materials show.”
The Internal Audit and RiskControl team conducts regular audits and investigations of both TikTok and ByteDance employees, “for infractions like conflicts of interest and misuse of company resources, and also for leaks of confidential information,” Forbes reported.
Documents reviewed by the outlet revealed that senior executives have ordered this team to investigate individual employees, both current and former.