TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, reportedly had plans to track individual Americans’ locations through its short-form video app, according to materials reviewed by Forbes.
ByteDance’s Internal Audit and Risk Control team, which typically audits potential misconduct among ByteDance employees, also came up with plans to track a U.S. citizen, who had no affiliation with the company, on at least two occasions through TikTok, Forbes reported, citing “materials.”
A TikTok spokesperson told the outlet the social media company tracks user location for the purpose of showing relevant ads, but the ByteDance audit team reportedly planned to use the app’s location tracking capabilities to “surveil individual American citizens, not to target ads or any of these other purposes,” according to Forbes.
TikTok and ByteDance did not immediately respond to inquiries from FoxNews.com. The companies also did not respond to Forbes when asked whether ByteDance’s audit team has previously tracked the locations of U.S. government officials, journalists or other public figures.
“Like most companies our size, we have an internal audit function responsible for objectively auditing and evaluating the company and our employees’ adherence to our codes of conduct,” ByteDance spokesperson Jennifer Banks in a statement to Forbes. “This team provides its recommendations to the leadership team.”
Former President Donald Trump tried to outright ban the app and force its sale to a U.S. corporation. However, courts ruled that approach illegal, and President Joe Biden rolled back Trump’s order soon after gaining office.
Biden did issue an executive order last month, underlying specific risks the U.S. Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment should consider when evaluating foreign companies, such as the “surveillance, tracing, tracking, and targeting of individuals or groups of individuals, with potential adverse impacts on national security.”
While TikTok has long insisted it does not share its data with the Chinese government or the Chinese Communist Party, executives have admitted under congressional testimony that its U.S. data is accessible from China.
TikTok is among the most frequently downloaded social media apps worldwide, as well as in the United States — specifically among young users.
Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.