A former ByteDance executive claims that the Chinese Communist Party has access to TikTok user data.
- The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may have accessed Hong Kong TikTok users’ data in 2018, according to a recent legal filing from a former ByteDance executive, Yintao Yu.
- ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, has repeatedly denied that the Chinese government has access to user data, The Wall Street Journal reports.
- The former executive claims that a committee made up of members of the CCP used TikTok to take a closer look at protestors and civil rights activists during that time.
- Through the data, the committee was allegedly able to see information, including SIM card identification and IP addresses, that could be used to locate the users.
- Yu also claimed that the committee members could view users’ communications within the TikTok app, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Why it’s news
The new allegations are part of an ongoing wrongful-dismissal lawsuit filed by Yu, who spent time in the company’s Los Angeles and Beijing offices. Yu’s accusations come shortly after another revelation that TikTok stores U.S. user data in China.
A ByteDance spokesperson denied Yu’s claims and accused the former employee of making up the information to attract media attention to his case. Yu was fired from ByteDance in 2018.
In comments made through his lawyer, Yu says he has chosen to speak out about the alleged misconduct now because of remarks made by TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew during a congressional hearing.
“My client is placing himself at risk by telling his story in court. But the truth is powerful, and telling the truth is what’s needed to bring social change,” Yu’s lawyer Charles Jung says.
If true, Yu’s allegations would add to U.S. lawmakers’ calls to ban the video-sharing social-media app TikTok in the U.S. Congressional leaders have long worried over security concerns surrounding the app and its connection to the CCP. Officials such as the FBI director have warned about the app.
In answer to these concerns, TikTok has proposed storing all U.S. user data at an Oracle data center in Texas, however, new reports from Forbes indicate that TikTok has stored users’ personal financial information on servers in China where they are accessible to employees.
TikTok used tools and databases from its parent company ByteDance to pay its creators who earn money through the app. Similar tools from the Beijing-based parent company are used to pay vendors and small businesses who work alongside TikTok.
Records obtained by Forbes indicate that sensitive financial and personal information from these third parties is stored in China, leading some to ask how much access China-based employees have to this information.
In a congressional testimony, Chew said, “I have seen no evidence that the Chinese government has access to that data. They have never asked us. We have not provided.”