TikTok said it does not collect GPS location information from users in the US. A clarification that comes in the wake of a Forbes article, which instead pointed out that, according to its information, the app could monitor US citizens. A clear threat from the app developed by the Chinese giant ByteDance. Forbes had reported that the team behind the monitoring project is part of ByteDance’s risk and internal control department. The department is generally tasked with examining potential misconduct by current and former employees of the company.
According to the publication, the group used the system to collect data on the position of non-employees or former employees in at least two cases. TikTok responded to Forbes’ allegations by pointing out the omission of part of its statement that it did not collect precise GPS location. That part ‘belied the viability of the main allegation,’ explained a company spokesperson. Furthermore, TikTok emphasised that it has never been used to target members of the US government, public figures, activists or journalists and that it does not offer them content that is different from other users. In its report, Forbes wrote that TikTok “did not respond to questions” about whether ByteDance’s internal audit team targeted members of those groups.
Oracle Cloud Servers
In June, TikTok announced it had ‘changed the default storage location of US user data’ to “Oracle cloud servers located in the United States”. A move came in days when the website BuzzFeed News published a report about ByteDance employees based in China repeatedly accessing non-public data on members in the US. That report was based on hours of internal meetings leaked online. A couple of weeks later, TikTok detailed its plans on how to ensure the security of US users’ data in a letter sent to lawmakers.
The CEO, Shou Zi Chew, assured that the company would “remove US users’ protected data from [its] systems and switch completely to Oracle cloud servers located in the US”. Last July, a report by the US-Australian cybersecurity firm Internet 2.0 claimed that the TikTok app on Android queries the device’s GPS location at least once an hour. According to data.ai, there are more than 1 billion Tik Tok users worldwide. TikTok also denied it pushes 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”.