TikTok Allegedly Assists China in Spying on Hong Kong Activists
In a recent court filing in the United States, former ByteDance executive Yintao Yu has accused TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, of allowing Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members to access the data of Hong Kong civil rights activists and protesters. According to the allegations, users who uploaded content related to protests were specifically targeted and monitored.
Mr. Yu's claims further suggest that CCP members had access to US TikTok user data as well. These allegations have been vehemently denied by a spokesperson from ByteDance, who referred to them as baseless.
The accusations were revealed as part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by Mr. Yu in the San Francisco Superior Court. According to his filing, members of a CCP committee were given a "superuser" credential, also known as a "god user," which granted them unrestricted access to all the data collected by ByteDance. These committee members, although not ByteDance employees, were physically present at the company's offices in Beijing, as per the filing.
Mr. Yu claims that this information was widely known among senior executives at ByteDance during his tenure as the head of engineering in the US from August 2017 onwards.
The court filing also alleges that in 2018, the CCP committee members utilized their "god credential" to identify and locate Hong Kong protesters, civil rights activists, and their supporters. It is worth noting that Hong Kong has witnessed significant protests, including the Umbrella movement in 2014, demanding the right to choose their own leader. Following the 2019 anti-government protests, Beijing imposed a stringent national security law, resulting in diminished visible dissent.
These serious allegations add to the growing concerns over data privacy and security associated with Chinese-owned technology companies. The outcome of the lawsuit and any subsequent investigations could have far-reaching implications for ByteDance and its popular social media platform, TikTok.