ByteDance fires 4 employees who accessed TikTok data of US journalists

said it had fired four employees who had access to some data users in the United States, including journalists. Based on , an investigation conducted by an outside law firm found that employees were trying to identify the source of the leak to reporters. Two of the employees are in the US and two are in China, where ByteDance is headquartered.

The company is said to have determined that members of the team responsible for monitoring employee behavior accessed the IP address and other data associated with a reporter’s TikTok account from and . The employees are also said to have accessed the data of several people with ties to the journalists. that ByteDance tracked three reporters who had previously worked for BuzzFeed News. All three of those publications have published reports about TikTok, including about its alleged ties to the Chinese government. Engadget has reached out to ByteDance for comment.

“The misconduct of individuals who are no longer employed at ByteDance is a serious abuse of their authority to gain access to user data. This misconduct is unacceptable and inconsistent with our efforts on TikTok to earn the trust of our users,” ByteDance said in a statement sent to Facebook. . “We take data security very seriously and we will continue to strengthen our access protocols, which have improved and enhanced significantly since this incident.”

In October, that members of ByteDance’s Internal Audit and Risk Control departments planned to use TikTok to track the location of specific US citizens. , but the report tracks the results of internal investigations. The company told time it restructured that division and prevented it from accessing any US data.

“Whatever cause or effect, [the employees’] The erroneous investigation seriously violated the Company’s Code of Conduct and was condemned by the company,” ByteDance CEO Rubo Liang told employees in a memo. We must exercise sound judgment in the choices we make and ensure that they represent the principles we stand behind as a company.”

The news of the investigation and the layoffs comes amid multiple attempts to ban TikTok in the US. , which includes Georgia and Texas, blocked the app on government-owned devices. Earlier this month, a bipartisan bill sought to TikTok from US consumer devices, along with other social apps with ties to China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the Senate passed , including a federal government-issued measure to ban TikTok on most devices. There will be some exceptions for elected officials, congressional staff, and law enforcement. The House of Representatives has yet to vote on the multi-decker bus bill but is expected to pass it on Thursday night.

Follow time, ByteDance said the laid-off employees accessed historical data it intended to delete from its own data servers in the United States and Singapore. Company that all TikTok user traffic is being routed to Oracle servers. That’s currently the “default storage location for US user data,” but at the time, ByteDance continued to back up data on its own servers.

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