A fresh report published in the New York Times has reiterated the breach of American users’ data by TikTok, including two journalists, as reported by Forbes late last year. The criminal division of The Justice Department, the F.B.I., and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia are carrying out a joint investigation into ByteDance – TikTok’s parent company.
The investigation was launched after ByteDance accepted that a few of its employees had accessed US journalist data. This was done to find suspected internal conversation and business documents leaks and to journalists.
The employees obtained the IP addresses of these journalists and their TikTok followers in an effort to find clues about potential data leaks. However, the entire effort turned out to be futile. These employees were later fired.
TikTok’s US Problem
It has been a tough few months for TikTok following the investigations by the US authorities. The Biden government offered TikTok to divest its interest in the USA. However, the company stated that doing so won’t solve the data privacy problem.
It offered an alternate “Project Texas” instead. Under this, all American users’ data is proposed to be stored locally, which would be duly audited by the US-based Oracle. However, the idea didn’t sit well with the authorities, given Oracle’s shady recent history.
The USA has already banned the app from all government devices a couple of months ago. And with the existing tensions, TikTok runs the risk of getting banned altogether in the country. A bill under Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries (DATA) Act has already been approved by the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee. This, if passed, would allow the government to place a permanent ban on the app.
Canada also launched a similar investigation into TikTok’s data collection and sharing practices. It aims to determine if the app obtains meaningful consent before obtaining and using user data.
With romping pressure from authorities, it’s fair to say that tough times lie ahead for TikTok.