The CEO of TikTok claims that efforts by its China-based parent company to stalk American journalists do not qualify as “surveillance” or “spying.”
The comments referred to an ongoing Department of Justice investigation regarding how employees at the China-based ByteDance, which owns TikTok, illicitly used TikTok data to track American journalists without their knowledge.
When asked if TikTok could prevent similar use of its data in the future by ByteDance employees, TikTok CEO Shou Chew said that ByteDance had not conducted surveillance on Americans.
“I first of all disagree with the characterization that it was spying,” Chew said during a March 23 House Energy and Commerce hearing on the issue of TikTok’s data privacy practices.
“It was an internal investigation,” Chew added.
ByteDance maintains deep ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which rules China as a single-party state, and its employees have sought to silence those critical of the company’s ties to the regime including by using TikTok.
Project Raven was just such a campaign, conducted by ByteDance employees who illicitly stalked American journalists by cross-referencing private geolocation data from TikTok, including the journalists’ IP addresses, to identify whether the journalists had frequented the same areas as ByteDance employees suspected of leaking information about the company’s ties to the CCP.
The team that oversaw that surveillance campaign was ByteDance’s Internal Audit and Risk Control department, a Beijing-based unit responsible for conducting investigations into potential misconduct by current and former ByteDance employees.
Both ByteDance and TikTok have since tried to distance themselves from the incident by claiming that Project Raven was conceived and carried out by rogue employees acting on their own initiative.
To that end, Chew said in his prepared testimony that TikTok employees were also involved in the incident but that they are no longer with the company. He did not clarify what role the former TikTok employees had played in the campaign.
“We do not condone the effort by certain former employees to access U.S. TikTok user data in an attempt to identify the source of leaked confidential information,” Chew said.
Chew then added that “we condemned these actions after learning about them” and made “swift disciplinary actions,” but did not clarify whether the “we” referred to TikTok or ByteDance.
From The Epoch Times