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TikTok responded to an explosive report in Forbes that alleged that the company’s Chinese parent company planned to use the platform to track the location of specific American citizens by claiming that the report was not accurate.
“Forbes’ reporting about TikTok continues to lack both rigor and journalistic integrity,” the company claimed in a statement.
The company claimed that they “disproved” the report by telling Forbes that they do not collect the GPS locations from U.S. users.
“TikTok has never been used to ‘target’ any members of the U.S. government, activists, public figures or journalists, nor do we serve them a different content experience than other users,” the company claimed. “Our Internal Audit team follows set policies and processes to acquire information they need to conduct internal investigations of violations of the company codes of conduct, as is standard in companies across our industry.”
Forbes’ report said that ByteDance’s Internal Audit and Risk Control department was the team responsible for the alleged plan to monitor the locations of specific American citizens. The person who oversees that department is Beijing-based executive Song Ye, who reports to ByteDance co-founder and CEO Rubo Liang.
The team is supposed to investigate alleged misconduct by current and former employees, but has allegedly in multiple instances “planned to collect TikTok data about the location of a U.S. citizen who had never had an employment relationship with the company,” the report said, citing documents that Forbes viewed.
It’s not clear whether the team collected the location and data of the targeted individuals, the report said, adding that the intended use of the data was to “surveil individual American citizens, not to target ads or any of these other purposes.”
President Joe Biden has been far friendlier to TikTok than former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly warned about the danger that the platform could pose to Americans.
The story comes after lawyers for the company told U.S. lawmakers that in order for data on U.S. citizens to be accessed, only limited “authorized personnel” would be allowed to under “protocols being developed with the U.S. Government.”
“TikTok appears to remain — despite the claims of its US executives — beholden to its China-based leadership,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) tweeted. “With each new report, there’s further evidence that TikTok’s claimed ‘independence’ is illusory.”
Rep. James Comer (R-KY), Ranking Member on the House Oversight Committee, responded to the story by saying that it was “clear TikTok is just the arm of the Chinese Communist Party.”
“@GOPoversight has pressed for clarification from the social media company on their data sharing practices,” Comer said. “Any failure to cooperate is a serious national security threat. Republicans will hold TikTok accountable.”