- TikTok and ByteDance employees around the world had free access to the accounts of the most popular celebrities and other public figures.
- This incident created national security risks and compromised the privacy of some of the most powerful people in the world.
Personal contacts of Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Charli D’Amelio, members of congress and even the Biden family can be accessed by any TikTok or ByteDance employee around the world, with only a few restrictions.
Every major social media platform keeps detailed information showing who their users connect with and how. Companies also have tools to help them analyze this data. In this respect, TikTok is no different from its competitors. However, the social mapping tools used by TikTok and TikTok’s parent company ByteDance can track their users more comprehensively than other companies. What sets TikTok apart, its rivals say, is its apparent lack of control over such private data. It is claimed that the information can be easily accessed even by employees who do not need access. Although the company denies the allegations, sources and experts; He says the fact that TikTok is owned by China and China’s ability to access such sensitive data with the app raises concerns about how the tool could be misused.
Twitter’s former security chief told the US government last year that he had discovered spies and foreign agents on the company’s payroll doing just that. The Justice Department also recently sentenced a Saudi Arabian citizen who worked for Twitter to years in federal prison for using the app to spy on critics and political opponents. U.S. officials have also expressed serious concerns about the Chinese government trying to staff or recruit at tech companies, including gathering information through Americans’ personal contacts and searching for potential clients on LinkedIn.
TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek said in a statement following the allegations: “We have safeguards in place for our tools and limit access to employees who need them to do their jobs.” said.
The company did not respond to questions about what these safeguards are and whether it has oversight processes in place to monitor the use and potential misuse of such tools. It is unknown if there are any examples of misuse of this type of tool by people working at TikTok or ByteDance, including in China.
Compiled by: Damla Şayan