The article, posted earlier on Thursday, said that ByteDance’s Internal Audit team — usually tasked with keeping an eye on those who currently work for the company or who have worked for the company in the past — planned on surveilling at least two Americans who “had never had an employment relationship with the company.”
Forbes says its report was based on materials it reviewed but did not include details about who was potentially going to be tracked or why ByteDance was planning on tracking them, claiming that doing so may put its sources at risk.
However, TikTok accused Forbes of leaving off a vital part of its statement, which says that “TikTok does not collect precise GPS location information from US users,” despite the article’s claims that its parent company ByteDance considered obtaining “location data from US users’ devices.”
Forbes hacks ignored the portion of our statement that disproved the feasibility of its core allegation -- TikTok does not collect precise GPS location information from US users, meaning TikTok could not monitor US users in the way the article suggested.
Forbes’ article says that TikTok and ByteDance didn’t answer questions about whether the internal audit team had ever targeted US politicians, activists, public figures, or journalists, and compared the alleged plan to Uber’s “greyball” program that targeted specific users, in some cases serving regulators a misleading version of the app.
TikTok says the app has “never been used to ‘target’” anyone in those groups and that it doesn’t change the in-app experience for those people. The company says that the audit team “follows set policies and processes to acquire information they need to conduct internal investigations.”
It also claims that anyone caught doing what Forbes alleged in the article would be fired.
To put this into some perspective, the US government has been saying for years that TikTok has been a tool of choice for the Chinese government to spy on US citizens. This has always been denied and the US government has been short on proof. We doubt that the Chinese are particularly interested in details of people who think the rest of the world is interested in them dressing their really ugly dogs as children and then film them doing the same things that dogs normally do.