ByteDance Says Employees Improperly Accessed TikTok User Data 


TikTok parent company ByteDance reportedly said employees improperly accessed two journalists’ TikTok user data. 

General Counsel Erich Andersen wrote in a Thursday (Dec. 22) email to ByteDance employees that employees had improperly done so in a “misguided plan” to identify people who had leaked information about the company, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. 

The employees — members of the company’s audit and risk control department — looked at the IP addresses of journalists who used TikTok to see if their location was near that of ByteDance employees who were suspected of releasing confidential information, according to the report. 

In another email to employees regarding the incident, ByteDance CEO Liang Rubo wrote that it was a serious violation of the company’s code of conduct, the report said. 

“We simply cannot take integrity risks that damage the trust of our users, employees and stakeholders,” Liang wrote in the email. “We must exercise sound judgment in the choices we make and be sure they represent the principles we stand behind as a company.” 

In a statement provided to PYMNTS, a ByteDance spokesperson said that the company has taken disciplinary measures and that none of the individuals found to have participated in or overseen this “misguided plan” remain employed at ByteDance.

This report comes about a month after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem banned the use of TikTok on state devices, saying that the social media platform gathers data on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

The executive order signed by Noem on Nov. 29 applies the ban to state devices used by state government agencies, employees and contractors. It prohibits use of both the TikTok app and website on devices owned or leased by South Dakota. 

“Because of our serious duty to protect the private data of South Dakota citizens, we must take this action immediately,” Noem said at the time. “I hope other states will follow South Dakota’s lead, and Congress should take broader action, as well.” 

In July, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew wrote to nine Republican senators saying that TikTok would keep its user data in the United States out of reach of ByteDance. 

“We know we are among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of U.S. user data,” Chew wrote at the time.