TikTok Owner ByteDance Said Employees Improperly Obtained Journalists' User Data


 TikTok’s China-based parent firm ByteDance said on Thursday that a small group of employees inappropriately obtained private data of US TikTok customers and are no longer employed at ByteDance. The New York Times reported that a few of the customers whose data was accessed included two journalists, one at BuzzFeed News and one on the Financial Times.

The information got here to light following an internal investigation by a third-party law firm, ByteDance general counsel Erich Andersen said in an email to the company’s employees that was seen by the Times.

Four ByteDance employees — two based inside the US, two based in China — reportedly were accountable for the safety breach, which was meant to discover the sources of suspected media leaks. They have all been fired.

In response to an inquiry from BuzzFeed News, a TikTok spokesperson said, “The misconduct of sure individuals, who're no longer employed at ByteDance, was an egregious misuse of their authority to acquire entry to user data. This misbehavior is unacceptable, and never in line with our efforts throughout TikTok to earn the belief of our users. We take data safety extremely seriously, and we will proceed to improve our entry protocols, which have already been considerably improved and hardened since this incident took place.”

A ByteDance spokesperson condemned the employees’ actions, which “seriously violated the company's Code of Conduct.” The spokesperson added, “We have taken disciplinary measures and never one of the people discovered to have directly participated in or overseen the misguided plan stay employed at ByteDance.”

The company’s chief executive, Rubo Liang, addressed the internal report’s findings in an email to employees on Thursday. “I was deeply disappointed when I was notified of the situation ... and I’m sure you really feel the same,” Liang wrote, as reported by the Times. “The public belief that we have spent huge efforts constructing goes to be considerably undermined by the misconduct of some individuals.”

BuzzFeed News reported on safety concerns surrounding TikTok over the previous year. In June, BuzzFeed News broke the information that nonpublic data about US TikTok customers had been repeatedly accessed from China. The report was based on audio, obtained by BuzzFeed News, from greater than eighty internal ByteDance meetings.

“We are deeply disturbed by a report that ByteDance employees accessed the private user data of a reporter for BuzzFeed News, showing a blatant disregard for the privateness and rights of journalists in addition to TikTok users,” BuzzFeed News spokesperson Lizzie Grams said Thursday. “It’s much extra troubling that this comes inside the wake of a series of reports by BuzzFeed News that uncovered main points inside its parent company, from employees accessing American users’ data from China to ByteDance’s makes an attempt to push pro-China messaging to Americans.”

A Financial Times spokesperson said, “Spying on reporters, interfering with their work or intimidating their sources is totally unacceptable. We'll be investigating this story extra fully earlier than deciding our formal response."


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