A new report in Forbes claims that TikTok’s parent company in China, ByteDance, intended to use the platform to track the locations of individual Americans.
Forbes, which claims to have reviewed documents deduced by ByteDance’s Internal Audit and Risk Control department found that the team, which is based in Beijing “planned to collect TikTok data about the location of a U.S. citizen who had never had an employment relationship with the company.”
The team’s purpose was to investigate alleged misconduct by current and former employees but allegedly planned to collect data on U.S. citizens in multiple instances, Forbes reported.
The publication noted that the data’s intended use was to “surveil individual American citizens, not to target ads or any of these other purposes.”
While there is no conclusive evidence to show that ByteDance intended to use TikTok to perform mass surveillance on American citizens, the report seems to suggest that the company may have planned to monitor some of its American employees but did not necessarily do so.
TikTok is reportedly close to signing a contract with the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) following an investigation of the platform to determine if the Chinese government is accessing privileged data on American citizens.
Lawyers for the company told U.S. lawmakers that for data on U.S. citizens to be accessed, only a few “authorized personnel” would be allowed to do so under “protocols being developed with the U.S. Government.”
Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have voiced their concerns about the security risk posed by TikTok, warning that the Chinese government may be using the popular social media app to keep tabs on Americans and their personal information.
“Forbes’ reporting about TikTok continues to lack both rigor and journalistic integrity,” ByteDance said in a statement. The company claims it disproved the report by telling Forbes it did not track U.S. users' GPS information.
“TikTok has never been used to ‘target’ any members of the U.S. government, activists, public figures or journalists, nor do we serve them a different content experience than other users,” the company claimed. “Our Internal Audit team follows set policies and processes to acquire information they need to conduct internal investigations of violations of the company codes of conduct, as is standard in companies across our industry.”