ByteDance helped China spy on Hong Kong activists using TikTok data, accuses former employee
ByteDance, the owner of video-sharing platform TikTok, allowed the Chinese government access to the data of Hong Kong civil rights activists and protesters, enabling it to track and monitor them, a former employee has alleged.
Former ByteDance executive Yintao Yu alleged in a US court filing that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members identified and monitored "protest-related content", BBC reported.
Yu, who for around a year from August 2017 was a head of engineering in the US for ByteDance, the report said.
In a filing to the San Francisco Superior Court, Yu alleged that the CCP members were also able to access US TikTok user data.
He claimed that the members of the CCP had a “superuser” credential also known as "god user", which enabled them to view all data collected by ByteDance.
These members were not ByteDance employees but were physically present at the company's offices in Beijing.
In 2018 the CCP committee members used their "god credential" to "identify and locate the Hong Kong protesters, civil rights activists, and supporters of the protests".
All this happened with the knowledge of the senior executives of the company, claimed Yu.
In 2014 Hong Kong saw huge protests with people demanding the right to elect their own leader. The uprising was called Umbrella Movement.
After this movement was crushed, smaller protests by civil rights activists were held. However, the demand and dissent have vanished since Beijing passed a draconian national security law after the anti-government 2019 protests.
ByteDance has dismissed the allegations as baseless. "We plan to vigorously oppose what we believe are baseless claims and allegations in this complaint," a ByteDance spokesperson said.
"It's curious that Mr Yu has never raised these allegations in the five years since his employment for Flipagram was terminated in July 2018. His actions are clearly intended to garner media attention," the ByteDance spokesperson added.
Yu's claims come as TikTok is under intense scrutiny around the world.