Former exec of TikTok parent ByteDance says Beijing had ‘supreme access’ to US data

Former exec of TikTok parent ByteDance says Beijing had ‘supreme access’ to US dataFormer exec of TikTok parent ByteDance says Beijing had ‘supreme access’ to US data
via CNBC International
A former executive for ByteDance — TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company — has accused the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of having “supreme access” to all of the tech giant’s data, including those stored in the U.S.
The allegation — among several others — came in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed earlier this month by Yintao Yu, 36, who served as head of engineering for ByteDance’s U.S. arm from August 2017 to November 2018.
Yu claims he was sacked for raising concerns about ByteDance’s “worldwide scheme” to steal and profit from other companies’ intellectual property, according to the suit. Those rivals allegedly included Instagram and Snapchat.
ByteDance allegedly developed a software that scraped videos from those competitors without permission. 
The company then reposted those videos to its platforms to boost engagement, which at some point was also allegedly helped by fake users, according to Yu.
Yu says he raised his concerns multiple times to Zhu Wenjia, who joined ByteDance in 2015 and was chosen to head TikTok’s global research and development in 2021, as per Reuters. However, Zhu allegedly dismissed them.
Amid U.S. national security concerns on TikTok, Yu also alleged that the Chinese government monitored all of ByteDance’s data, including those in America. 
He pointed to a special CCP unit called the “Committee” as providing guidance on advancing “core communist values” and possessing a “death switch” that could turn off the Chinese version of the company’s apps, according to The New York Times.
“After receiving criticism about access from abroad, individual engineers in China were restricted from accessing U.S. user data, but the Committee continued to have access,” Yu’s suit stated.
In June 2022, a BuzzFeed investigation of leaked audio recordings found that U.S. TikTok users’ data had been repeatedly accessed from China. One director reportedly cited a Beijing engineer called “Master Admin” as having “access to everything.”
Yu in his suit also accused ByteDance of promoting anti-Japanese content on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, according to AP News. Additionally, the company was said to have demoted content that expressed support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong while boosting those that criticized them.
In response, ByteDance slammed Yu’s allegations as “baseless claims.” 
A spokesperson told The Hill that Yu had worked for the company for less than a year, during which he worked on a now-discontinued app called Flipagram.
“We plan to vigorously oppose what we believe are baseless claims and allegations in this complaint,” the spokesperson said. “ByteDance is committed to respecting the intellectual property of other companies, and we acquire data in accordance with industry practices and our global policy.”
TikTok at present faces a nationwide ban in the U.S. Its current CEO, Shou Chew — who concurrently served as ByteDance’s CFO for several months — testified at the House in March to assure lawmakers of the app’s safety.
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