TikTok insiders raise cybersecurity concerns over the app’s controllership

TikTok former employees have raised concerns over the app’s controllership, saying that the social media site’s Beijing-based parent company ByteDance controls everything.

A former TikTok recruiter told CNBC that she was often found to be working double shifts despite her hours only being from 10am to 7am as ByteDance executives are heavily involved in the decision-making at the company and expected California based workers to be available at all times of the day.

The former recruiter, alongside three others said they were concerned about how ByteDance has access to US user data and is actively involved in the Los Angeles’ company’s product development, the employees have remained anonymous over fear of retribution from the company.

The claims have raised cybersecurity experts fears that the Chinese government could use the popular video-sharing app to spread propaganda or censorship to US audiences, according to CNBC.

TikTok has grown astronomically since its launch in 2017, with 92 million users in the US alone.

The app is specifically popular amongst Gen Z and has taken the crown of US teens’ second favourite app off Instagram after snapchat.

Former US president Donald Trump had sought to ban the app in the US or force it to merge with a US company, expressing national security concerns as the reason for the move.

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However, TikTok has consistently maintained concerns over national security are unfounded, stating: “We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.

TikTok’s privacy policy claims it can share its collected user data with its corporate group which includes ByteDance.

“We may share all of the information we collect with a parent, subsidiary, or other affiliate of our corporate group,” the privacy policy reads.

According to cybersecurity experts that spoke to CNBC, there a number of risks that come from TikTok being so tightly controlled by its parent company.

These include influencing the US user base by showing short-form videos that the Chinese government may want to show consumers, whether it may be factual or not and the potential to censor certain types of content.

In a report by the Guardian in 2019, TikTok instructed its moderators to censor videos that mentioned Tiananmen Square and Tibetan independence or religious groups.

As a result of the report, TikTok acknowledged that its censorship was wrong and said it would no longer practise it on its platform.

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