Parent company Bytedance plans to use tiktok to track locations of specific Americans! Bytedance is reported to have come up with the idea of targeting US citizens— specifically govt. members, public figures, activists and journalists.
TikTok’s parent company Bytedance eyes on using the application to observe the personal location of some particular American citizens.
Bytedance’s Internal Audit and Risk Control department— headed by a Beijing based CEO Song Ye, has been appointed to undertake the monitoring operation, which will be directly reported to Bytedance’s cofounder and CEO Rubo Liang. Apparently, the department’s primary work is prod into potential delinquency of the present and former Bytedance staff. It also conducts a regular inspection of Bytedance and TikTok employees, for infringements like interest disputes and exploitation of the company’s resources. The records and documents from Lark (internal office management software of Bytedance) indicate that the internal audit team makes use of a data request system known as “green channel”, which is known to its employees. Until now, the team’s role in limiting China based employees’ access to US is uncertain.
From the available information, it cannot be fully determined whether the data about these Americans has already been collected. However, it can only be claimed that the organisation intends to obtain the physical location of these people from their devices. According to a report by Forbes, the sources stipulate that the Internal Audit department is not scrutinising this information for target advisements, etc. The reviewed materials also mention the said investigation orders by senior executives of TikTok, including the CEO, Shou Zi Chew. Although, the actual nature and purpose behind this surveillance has not been disclosed by the media company.
According to TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan, the video sharing application tracks the approximate location via their users’ IP addresses in order to “help show relevant content and ads to users, comply with applicable laws, and detect and prevent fraud and inauthentic behaviour”.
TikTok and Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) are ostensibly close to sign a deal. The function of CFIUS includes the assessment of potential risks posed by foreign companies, which can be a threat to national security. Recently, it has been probing whether the Chinese company allows access to the personal information of UK TikTok users to the Government of China. Last month, President Joe Biden cautioned the CFIUS by signing an executive order that detailed specific risks which CFIUS must pay attention to, while evaluating companies of foreign ownership. The President’s order determines to “emphasize….the risks presented by foreign adversaries’ access to data of United States’ persons”. The Treasury Department did not make any remark on the matter so far.
In an answer to Bloomberg, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said, “We are confident that we are on a path to fully satisfy all reasonable U.S. national security concerns.”
Moreover, Oracle spokesperson—Ken Glueck said that although Oracle provides cloud services to TikTok, the company has absolutely no insight about who can access TikTok user data— just like any of its million other customers including the Bank of America and General Motors, who fully control everything they are doing.
It primarily targets foreign companies which intend to use data to surveillance, trace, track and focus on individuals or groups, as it could have a detrimental effect on national security.