TikTok Owner ByteDance Fired 4 Employees Who Accessed Journalists’ Data

By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on December 27, 2022

TikTok is under a lot of pressure. Child safety concerns are escalating, and the US government has banned the app on government devices. Moreover, there is serious consideration about banning the app in the US entirely following continued safety concerns that include employees accessing journalists’ data.

TikTok’s history does not inspire confidence, with the app sending data to China, which received a lot of backlash from US regulators. While there have been reviews, it has not inspired confidence, and the app has been under review for years. Additionally, the deal between TikTok and the Biden administration has been delayed numerous times.

  • The recent ban on government devices puts the Biden administration in a tough position since Biden dropped a previous ban initiated by Trump in favor of a national security review.
  • It does not help that child safety concerns are in the spotlight, and it is not the first time they have popped up on the app. Eating disorder videos also flooded the app in 2021.

ByteDance fired four employees who accessed journalists’ data. The parent company of TikTok launched an internal investigation that revealed that its employees accessed the data of two journalists and other users in the US while tracking down a company leak.

The employees were tracking down a leak over the summer during the search for a suspected leak that involved journalists getting their hands on internal conversations and documents. They accessed IP addresses and additional data of the journalists and those connected to them through their TikTok accounts.

  • The employees were attempting to determine whether the people were in contact with ByteDance employees.
  • The investigative efforts of the employees to uncover the source of the suspected leak did not yield any results.

ByteDance’s general counsel revealed details of the investigation, which was conducted by an external law firm. In the end, all of those involved were fired, including two employees working in the US and two working in China. Additionally, ByteDance said that it restructured its internal audit and risk team and took away the department’s access to US data.

The targeted reporters included Emily Baker-White and Cristina Criddle. Baker-White currently works at Forbes, while Criddle works at the Financial Times. While ByteDance did not reveal the other users affected, Forbes reported several other journalists it believes were targeted. ByteDance did not find evidence that the incident involved the other two journalists reported by Forbes, but it said it would examine the data again.

The fired employees got their hands on historical data, which will no longer be available in the near future. TikTok has been transferring US data to the Oracle Cloud, and it plans on deleting all historical data outside of Oracle systems.

  • The move to the Oracle cloud storage system was made in an attempt to reassure people about national security concerns, erecting a wall between US data and the Chinese government.
  • There is a serious effort to display that TikTok is a separate entity from ByteDance with its own corporate structure.

Not everyone is buying it. ByteDance executives have condemned the actions, and there has been a public apology, but not everyone is buying it. Many are still calling for a bigger ban on TikTok, concerned over how US data is being used, and by who.

By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Spencer Hulse is the Editorial Director at Grit Daily. He is responsible for overseeing other editors and writers, day-to-day operations, and covering breaking news.

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