According to an email from the Reuters news agency, ByteDance, the Chinese parent firm of the popular video app TikTok. It stated several staff was fired after inappropriately accessing the TikTok user data of two journalists.
According to the email sent by ByteDance lawyer Erich Andersen, the company’s employees had access to the data. As part of an unsuccessful investigation into information leaks earlier this year and were looking for any connections between two journalists. A former reporter for BuzzFeed and a reporter for the Financial Times.
To determine if journalists were in the same area as workers suspected of leaking private information. The staff members examined the IP addresses of journalists.
The New York Times previously reported on the admission, which may increase the pressure on TikTok in Washington from lawmakers and President Joe Biden’s administration over security concerns over US users’ data.
Four ByteDance workers who were engaged in the event, including two in China and two in the US, were dismissed, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Company representatives said that they were taking extra precautions to safeguard consumer data.
A TikTok representative informed Al Jazeera that “some employees are no longer working at ByteDance. Engaged in misbehavior that constituted an egregious abuse of their power to acquire access to user data.”
“This inappropriate conduct is not in keeping with our efforts on TikTok to win our users’ confidence. Since this incident, we have taken the protection of your data very seriously. We have already made significant improvements and strengthened our access processes.
A ByteDance representative criticized the staff members’ “misguided effort.”
The spokesman informed Al Jazeera that “we have taken disciplinary actions” and that “none of the employees identified to have personally engaged in or supervised the erroneous strategy are working at ByteDance.”
This week, the US Congress is expected to approve legislation making it illegal. For federal workers to download or use TikTok on equipment that belongs to the government. More than a dozen governors have prohibited public workers from using TikTok on equipment that belongs to the government.
Spying on reporters, interfering with their work, or scaring their sources is entirely unethical, according to a statement from The Financial Times. Before deciding on our official reaction, we will further investigate this story.
The piece, according to Lizzie Grams, a spokeswoman for BuzzFeed News, “shows a flagrant contempt. for the privacy and rights of journalists as well as TikTok users,” and the firm is quite troubled by it.
On Thursday, Forbes revealed that ByteDance had been monitoring several Forbes writers, including those who had previously worked for BuzzFeed. “as part of a clandestine surveillance program” to identify the source of leaks.
It was “a frontal attack on the notion of a free press and its crucial role in a functioning democracy,” according to Forbes Chief Content Officer Randall Lane.
In a second email to staff members that Reuters obtained, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said that such “misconduct is not in any way typical of what I believe our company’s beliefs to be.”
The corporation, he stated, “will continue to improve these access procedures. Which have already been greatly strengthened and toughened since this endeavor took place.”
According to Chew, the business has been striving to develop TikTok US Data Security (USDS) for the last 15 months to guarantee that secured user data remains in the US.
He said we had been methodically closing off access points as we completed the shift of protected US user data management to the USDS department.
Additionally, ByteDance said that the worldwide investigations function would be divided and reorganized. As part of the reorganization of internal audit and risk control departments.
To preserve the data of more than 100 million US TikTok users, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). A national security authority has been negotiating with ByteDance for months. However, it doesn’t look that a deal will be struck before the end of the year.
It is becoming more and more evident that TikTok must be outlawed. In response to the event, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said that ByteDance was “desperate to quell rising bipartisan worries. About how it allows the Chinese Communist Party to access – and possibly weaponize – the data of American individuals.