ByteDance confirmed it used TikTok to monitor three journalists’ physical location using their IP addresses, reports Forbes, “to unearth the source of leaks inside the company following a drumbeat of stories exposing the company’s ongoing links to China.”
As a result of the investigation into the surveillance tactics, ByteDance fired Chris Lepitak, its chief internal auditor who led the team responsible for them. The China-based executive Song Ye, who Lepitak reported to and who reports directly to ByteDance CEO Rubo Liang, resigned…. “It is standard practice for companies to have an internal audit group authorized to investigate code of conduct violations,” TikTok General Counsel Erich Andersen wrote in a second internal email shared with Forbes. “However, in this case individuals misused their authority to obtain access to TikTok user data….”
“This new development reinforces serious concerns that the social media platform has permitted TikTok engineers and executives in the People’s Republic of China to repeatedly access private data of U.S. users despite repeated claims to lawmakers and users that this data was protected,” Senator Mark Warner told Forbes….
ByteDance is not the first tech giant to use an app to monitor specific users. In 2017, the New York Times reported that Uber had identified various local politicians and regulators and served them a separate, misleading version of the Uber app to avoid regulatory penalties…. Both Uber and Facebook also reportedly tracked the location of journalists reporting on their apps.
Ironically, TikTok’s journalist-tracking project involved the company’s Chief Security and Privacy Office, according to Forbes, and targeted three Forbes journalists who had formerly worked at BuzzFeed News.
It was back in October that Forbes first reported ByteDance had discussed tracking journallists. ByteDance had immediately denied the charges on Twitter, saying “TikTok has never been used to ‘target’ any members of the U.S. government, activists, public figures or journalists,” and that “TikTok could not monitor U.S. users in the way the article suggested.”
Forbes also notes that in 2021, TikTok became the most visited website in the world. Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader newbie_fantod for submitting the story!
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