TikTok employees stalked journalists to identify their sources

Spying organized by employees. Several American journalists have been tracked by TikTok employees in order to identify their sources. This is the result of an internal investigation conducted by ByteDance, the application’s parent company, and revealed by our colleagues at New York Times.

Collected IP addresses

During the summer, several employees of a team of ByteDance in charge of the surveillance of the internal personnel of the company carried out the investigation in order to determine the identity of the employees of the application who snitched to the press. As part of the investigation, the TikTok team accessed the personal information of several American journalists who followed the news related to the social network on behalf of their newspaper.

In particular, IP addresses were collected to try to determine whether the journalists were in the same geographical area as the employees suspected of leaking information to the media.

In detail, the internal investigation commissioned by ByteDance into these cases of spying on an outside law firm revealed that at least two journalists from BuzzFeed and the FinancialTimes had been targeted. The magazine Forbes claims for its part that three of its editors have also been tracked.

An investigation opened by ByteDance

In an email seen by our colleagues at yardRubo Liang, CEO of ByteDance, said to himself “deeply disappointed“by the behavior of the employees involved in this digital spinning.”The public trust, which we have worked so hard to build, will be significantly undermined by the misbehaviour of a few individuals.“, he added.

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As part of ByteDance’s internal investigation, the company’s head of audit and risk control has been fired, along with three other employees involved in the case. The team has been restructured to avoid further incidents in the future. The investigations were opened by the management of the social network last October, after the publication by Forbes of an investigation into the management of location data of certain American citizens.

TikTok under fire from critics

This new case falls badly for the social network. For several months, TikTok has been making headlines across the Atlantic. Several US states have banned the installation of the app on their employees’ phones. The country’s authorities are also concerned that the data of US citizens could be exported to China and used for espionage purposes.

An agreement between ByteDance and the US government is being negotiated, but the revelation of this organized surveillance could put a stop to the talks. For its part, the parent company of TikTok condemned a “unfortunate initiative that seriously violated the company’s code of conduct“, in a statement to theAFP.

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