TikTok Denies Tracking US Citizens Following Forbes Report

The video app TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance .

TikTok has denied it is being used to “target” US citizens following a report that its Chinese parent planned to track the location of people via the video-sharing app.

A report by Forbes on Thursday claimed that in at least two cases a China-based team at ByteDance, the platform’s owner, planned to collect location data on a US citizen.

The alleged tracking was to be carried out by ByteDance’s internal audit and risk control team, Forbes said, which conducts investigations into misconduct by current and former ByteDance employees.

However, the US business publication said the two unnamed Americans had never been employed by ByteDance.

Forbes, citing undisclosed material it had viewed, said it was unclear whether the location data was ultimately collected from users’ devices.

It said the material indicated that ByteDance did not intend the location information to be used for commercial purposes such as ad targeting.

TikTok has responded to the allegations on a corporate Twitter account, saying it does not collect.

precise GPS location information from US users, and“could not monitor US users in the way the article suggested”.

It says it has never been used to “target” any “members of the US government, activists, public figures or journalists”.

As well as criticising the “integrity” of Forbes’s journalism, TikTok also said any use of internal audit resources as alleged by the article would be “grounds for immediate dismissal of company personnel”.

However, TikTok’s own privacy policy tells users: “We collect information about your approximate location, including location information based on your sim card and/ or IP address.

With your permission, we may also collect precise location data (such as GPS).”

The Forbes report was published against a backdrop of political and regulatory concern about TikTok.

In July, a report by Internet 2.0, a US-Australian cybersecurity firm, claimed the TikTok app on Android – used by phone makers such as Samsung and Huawei – queried the device’s GPS location at least once an hour.

According to the analytics firm data.ai, there are 112 million iPhone and Android TikTok users in the US, and more than 1 billion worldwide.

TikTok also denied it pushed different content to government officials, regulators, activists or journalists.

In a statement to Forbes, ByteDance added: “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.”

TikTok, Forbes and ByteDance have been contacted for comment.

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