Skip to main content

Former ByteDance exec claims China had access to TikTok data

TikTok is feeling the heat again after a former leading executive at its parent company, Byte Dance, made a series of damning claims in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed recently in the San Francisco Superior Court

Among the allegations made by Yintao Yu was that the Chinese Community Party (CCP) “maintained supreme access” to TikTok data stored in the U.S. when he worked for the company between 2017 and 2018.

TikTok logo on an iPhone.
Digital Trends

Yu also said in the lawsuit that he believes ByteDance “has served as a useful propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party.”

The suit comes as U.S. lawmakers continue to consider the future of the social media app amid growing concerns over TikTok’s impact on U.S. national security and data privacy, Axios reported.

Yu, who reportedly worked as head of engineering for ByteDance’s U.S. operations, claimed in the lawsuit that the CCP had a “special office or unit” operating inside the Beijing-headquartered company, adding that it “played a significant role” by influencing “how the company advanced core Communist values” within the app.

The lawsuit accused the company of promoting “nationalistic content [that] served to both increase engagement on ByteDance’s websites and to promote support of the CCP,” adding that the CCP could also access U.S. user data via a “backdoor channel in the code.”

Yu’s suit alleges that ByteDance was “aware that if the Chinese government’s backdoor was removed from the international/U.S. version of the app, the Chinese government would, it feared, ban the company’s valuable Chinese-version apps.”

TikTok has always insisted that the Chinese state has no access to its user data and that U.S. data is stored in the U.S. and Singapore. Responding to the allegations, ByteDance said it will “vigorously oppose what we believe are baseless claims and allegations in this complaint.”

Since Yu left the company in 2018, TikTok has taken several measures to protect U.S. user data, some of which are part of a $1.5 billion initiative called Project Texas.

The future of TikTok’s existence in the U.S. is still hanging in the balance as lawmakers from across the political divide consider moves that would potentially give the American government the power to ban TikTok nationwide.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
TikTok says it’s here to stay; ban from U.S. app stores delayed to September 27
tiktok logo

TikTok claims that it is here to stay, shortly after President Donald Trump said that he has approved Oracle's proposed deal to acquire the video-sharing app's U.S. assets.

TikTok said on Twitter said that it is not going anywhere, while also uploading a short video message from interim CEO Vanessa Pappas.

Read more
TikTok reaches deal to sell its U.S. operations to Oracle
tiktok logo

TikTok has reportedly struck a deal with Oracle to sell its U.S. operations to the American software giant, just ahead of the September 15 deadline to sell the business imposed by President Trump.

The deal ensures that the popular social media app will remain operational for its millions of fans in the U.S.

Read more
Microsoft fails in effort to acquire TikTok’s U.S. operations
digital trends live episode 437 106619142 15949038932020 07 16t045305z 1572845887 rc24uh9n1ig1 rtrmadp 0 usa legislation tikt

Microsoft has failed in its effort to acquire the U.S. operations of popular social media app TikTok, the computer giant said on Sunday.

Microsoft was an early contender to purchase part of TikTok from its Chinese owner, ByteDance, but talks have evidently led nowhere.

Read more