TikTok Fires Staff For Breach Of Privacy Violations

(PatriotWise.com) – Last week, video-sharing platform TikTok admitted that it used its app to spy on reporters as part of an effort to track down their sources within the company, an internal email revealed.

According to the email, employees from TikTok’s parent company ByteDance accessed the reporters’ data to track their physical movements. The company’s chief internal auditor Chris Lepitak, who led the tracking operation, has been fired while his Chinese-based manager Song Ye has resigned.

The employees used the IP addresses of journalists on TikTok in an attempt to determine if they were in the same location as TikTok employees suspected of leaking confidential information. Ensnared in the unsuccessful operation were former Buzzfeed reporter Emily Baker-White and Financial Times reporter Cristina Criddle, among others.

Buzzfeed News spokeswoman Lizzie Grams said the report showed “a blatant disregard for the privacy and rights of journalists as well as TikTok users.”

The Financial Times said in a statement that ByteDance’s efforts to spy on reporters and intimidate sources were “completely unacceptable.” The outlet said it would investigate the story “more fully before deciding our formal response.”

In all, at least four ByteDance employees both in the US and China improperly accessed the data, according to an email from ByteDance general counsel Erich Anderson. All four have been fired.

ByteDance chief executive Rubo Liang, Song Ye’s direct supervisor, said in an internal email that he was “deeply disappointed” that the “public trust” ByteDance has built will be “significantly undermined by the misconduct of a few individuals.”

When the allegations were first reported, both ByteDance and TikTok issued categorical denials, claiming that the company could not have monitored American users in the way described in the report.

They maintained that TikTok has never been used to “target” government officials, activists, public figures, or journalists.” This claim is now acknowledged to be false.

ByteDance said it would be restructuring the internal audit and risk control department and also splitting and restructuring its global investigations function.

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