Four ByteDance employees violated company policy by inappropriately accessing data on TikTok users in the U.S., including two journalists, in an attempt to track down the source of information leaks, according to an internal report released by the Chinese company.
ByteDance said it fired all four of the employees, two based in the U.S. and two in China.
The internal ByteDance report, as first reported by the New York Times, found that the employees accessed the IP addresses and other data of two U.S.-based reporters via their TikTok accounts — one for BuzzFeed and one at the Financial Times — along with several people connected to the reporters.
A TikTok spokesperson said in a statement to Variety, “The misconduct of those individuals, who are no longer employed at ByteDance, was an egregious misuse of their authority to obtain access to user data. This misbehavior is unacceptable, and not in line with our efforts across TikTok to earn the trust of our users. We take data security incredibly seriously, and we will continue to enhance our access protocols, which have already been significantly improved and hardened since this incident took place.”
TikTok had previously pushed back on a report by Forbes in October that ByteDance’s Internal Audit and Risk Control department, which investigates potential misconduct by employees, had planned to monitor the location of U.S. TikTok users.
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