TikTok‘s parent company, ByteDance, is currently under FBI investigation following an incident last December where four employees were fired for using the popular video-sharing app to spy on the locations of two journalists. According to Forbes, the FBI and the Department of Justice have been investigating the matter, which has raised concerns about the app’s surveillance tactics.
ByteDance has been under increasing pressure to sell its stake in TikTok, with critics in Congress questioning the app’s data privacy policies. This latest investigation could not have come at a worse time for the company, which has been facing scrutiny over its ties to the Chinese government.
The incident last year involved employees at ByteDance accessing the data of several TikTok users in the US, including journalists, in an effort to locate the sources of leaks. Forbes reported that ByteDance tracked three of its reporters who had previously worked for BuzzFeed News. These publications have all run reports on TikTok, with many focusing on its alleged ties to the Chinese government.
In response to the investigation, a spokesperson for ByteDance stated, “We have strongly condemned the actions of the individuals found to have been involved, and they are no longer employed at ByteDance. Our internal investigation is still ongoing, and we will cooperate with any official investigations when brought to us.”
This is not the first time that ByteDance has come under fire for its data privacy practices. Last year, the company acknowledged that employees had inappropriately accessed US user data, further raising concerns about the app’s surveillance tactics.
The ongoing investigation by the FBI and the Department of Justice underscores the need for greater transparency and accountability when it comes to data privacy and surveillance practices. As the popularity of TikTok continues to grow, it is essential that companies like ByteDance take steps to ensure that user data is protected and that surveillance practices are both legal and ethical.