According to ByteDance, employees of the Chinese tech giant incorrectly accessed data on the social media platform TikTok to track journalists and identify leakers to the media.
TikTok has made great efforts to convince governments and customers in major markets such as the United States that their data privacy is secure and does not threaten national security.
However, parent company ByteDance informed AFP Friday that several employees accessed two journalists’ data as part of an internal investigation into possible leaks of company information.
They had hoped for links between staff members, a Financial Times reporter, and a former BuzzFeed journalist. An email sent by Erich Andersen, ByteDance’s general counsel, was seen by AFP. Both journalists have previously reported on leaked company documents.
Andersen stated that none of the employees involved in the investigation remained employed at ByteDance. He did not specify how many were fired.
ByteDance issued a statement to AFP condemning the “misguided” initiative that violated the company’s Code of Conduct.
According to Andersen, employees had obtained the IP addresses from journalists to see if they were in the same place as ByteDance colleagues who might have disclosed confidential information.
A company review of the scheme was conducted by its compliance team and an external legal firm. However, the plan was thwarted partly because IP addresses needed to reveal exact location data.
TikTok is back in the news in America as Congress looks to ban the popular short-video app on federal devices. This was due to security concerns.
This week, the House of Representatives could adopt a law banning TikTok from civil servants’ professional phones. It would be a follow-up to bans in approximately 20 US states.
TikTok tried to convince the US authorities that US data was protected and stored on servers in the country. However, media reports have revealed that it also admitted that employees based in China had access to US users’ data, even though the company claimed it was only under very limited circumstances.