TikTok’s Owner ByteDance Confirms Employees Tracked User Data of Journalists

TikTok user data was obtained by employees in order to track a number of journalists, said the app's parent company ByteDance.

ByteDance headquarters, building with ByteDance logo illuminated at top
The Beijing headquarters of ByteDance. (Photo by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images) (Photo by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of TikTok, revealed that former employees improperly accessed the user data of U.S. journalists.

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In internal emails to employees, the company said an inquiry found that four employees gained access to the IP addresses and other data of journalists in an attempt to find sources of suspected internal communications leaks, as reported by the New York Times.

The ByteDance employees involved in the matter were located in China and the U.S., and have since been fired. Targeted journalists included Emily Baker-White, a Forbes reporter who previously worked at Buzzfeed, and Financial Times writer Cristina Criddle.

The Financial Times will continue investigating the report before deciding on a formal response, said Molly Eisner, a spokesperson for the publication, in a statement. “Spying on reporters, interfering with their work or intimidating their sources is completely unacceptable.” Buzzfeed did not respond to requests for comment.

The revelation adds to mounting pressure on U.S. security concerns regarding TikTok. Earlier this month, Alabama and Utah banned the use of the popular video app on state devices, joining other states with similar prohibitions that are concerned about ByteDance’s access of user data. Meanwhile, in November, the FBI warned Congress that TikTok is a national security problem and could potentially share data with the Chinese government.

“ByteDance condemns this misguided plan that seriously violated the company’s Code of Conduct,” said Jennifer Banks, a spokesperson for ByteDance, in a statement. “We have taken disciplinary measures and none of the individuals found to have directly participated in or overseen the misguided plan remain employed at ByteDance.”

TikTok’s Owner ByteDance Confirms Employees Tracked User Data of Journalists