ByteDance using TikTok to spy on Americans

Maureen Shanahan, a spokesperson for the social network, said the purpose was to "show relevant content and ads to users."

ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok may be spying on the location of U.S. citizens. According to Forbes, the Chinese company's Internal Audit and Risk Control department planned to collect information on the exact location of multiple Americans. In at least two cases, these citizens were neither former employees nor associated with TikTok or ByteDance, according to the Forbes report.

ByteDance's Internal Audit and Risk Control team is typically concerned with investigating possible misconduct by current and former staff at the Beijing-based company.

It is not entirely clear from the Forbes report whether these citizens' data was ever obtained. What is certain, however, is that the ByteDance team's plan was to obtain the location of these Americans' electronic devices.

TikTok responds

TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan defended the company's activities. She claimed that the social network collects the location of its users to "among other things, help show relevant content and ads to users, comply with applicable laws, and detect and prevent fraud and inauthentic behavior."

However, the material reviewed by Forbes indicates just the opposite. According to the media outlet, ByteDance intended to use this information to "surveil individual American citizens, not to target ads or any of these other purposes." In addition, they also report that both companies declined to answer questions about the people they allegedly spied on. Both TikTok and ByteDance declined to respond to Forbes regarding whether their Internal Audit team has targeted any U.S. government officials, activists, public figures or journalists.

According to a report published by The New York Times, TikTok have been negotiating with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). CFIUS is an agency within the Department of the Treasury that assesses national security risks arising from companies owned by other countries. It is investigating whether the company's owners could potentially leak U.S. TikTok users' personal information to the Chinese government.