TikTok CEO Denies Allegations of Company Spying on Journalists

After Thursday’s House hearing, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew faced a barrage of questions over concerns that data collected on U.S. users might be vulnerable to surveillance by China. Some lawmakers want the company to encrypt user data, while others are urging the platform to share more information about how it handles user data and who has access to it.

In late February, the FDA sent a warning letter to Chew’s BBQ and Spirit stating that their sauces and barbecue seasoning contain high levels of lead. The FDA urged the company to cease selling their sauce and seasoning until they can ensure they are safe for consumers. This news comes on the heels of several other controversies facing Chew’s, which has made it difficult for them to build trust with Washington officials. Earlier this year, the company was fined for using expired meat in their nacho cheese sauce packages, which angered restaurant

As the company’s owner, CEO, and major shareholder, ByteDance is likely privy to a wealth of information about its users. With its app installed on over 200 million devices and reaching more than one billion people each month, it is possible that the company has collected sensitive data on American citizens without their knowledge or consent. Whether or not ByteDance has engaged in actual spying remains to be seen, but it would unquestionably be scandalous if such activities were uncovered.

TikTok’s admission of tracking journalists through their IP addresses has raised concern among media watchdog organizations about the privacy of reporters working on delicate stories. While it is not clear whether any confidential information was gleaned from the addresses, the incident underscores the need for companies to be as transparent as possible about how they collect and use data.

Rubo’s email suggests that ByteDance was not fully aware of the level of misconduct within their company, and that they are working to restore public trust. ByteDance has faced scrutiny in the past for their relationship with Chinese authorities, but this incident seems to have caused them to reevaluate how they operate.

TikTok has always prided itself on being transparent and accountable, but its recent changes undermine these claims. For example, Project Texas is a massive corporate reorganization that will move U.S. user data to domestic servers overseen by American software giant Oracle. This move further undermines trust in the company, even though TikTok has launched a campaign to portray itself as transparent and accountable.

So far, TikTok’s campaign to shed public light on its regulation problems has been largely unsuccessful. The app is still facing scrutiny from lawmakers and the general public, with many accusing the company of not being forthright about its policies. Thursday’s hearing might be the platform TikTok needs to show that it is serious about changing its ways.

An investigation by the FBI and DOJ into ByteDance’s suspicious activity towards American journalists could severely strain their relationship with the company.ByteDance is currently under scrutiny for their alleged involvement in surveillance of journalists, which could lead to tighter regulation and even potential condemnation from the government. Unless they can swiftly prove they are not guilty of any wrongdoing, it looks as though there may be no turning back for ByteDance – a relationships with key stakeholders may be irreparably damaged.

Read more about the TikTok hearing on TechCrunch
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Ava Patel

Ava Patel is a cultural critic and commentator with a focus on literature and the arts. She is known for her thought-provoking essays and reviews, and has a talent for bringing new and diverse voices to the forefront of the cultural conversation.

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