ByteDance accused of helping China spy on protesters in Hong Kong | Technical News

Bytedance logo

(Image: Reuters/Thomas Suen//File Photo)

A former executive at ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, has claimed that China’s ruling Communist Party used data from the company to spy on protesters in Hong Kong.

Yintao Yu, ByteDance’s US technical lead, said the same people had access to US user data, an allegation the company denies.

Yu, who worked for the company in 2018, recently raised the allegations in a motion for a wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court in May.

In the documents presented to the court, he said that ByteDance had a “superuser” credential – also known as a “god credential” – that allowed a special committee of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members stationed at the company to control all of ByteDance View Collected Data, including American Users.

The credential acted as a “backdoor to any barrier that ByteDance allegedly installed to protect data from CCP surveillance,” the filing says.

Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous region with its own government, but a national security law enacted by China in 2020 sparked a spate of pro-democracy protests.

The controversial extradition bill would allow Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China. It was used to crack down on dissent and political opposition. The law has also been used to silence pro-democracy media and activists.

Hong Kong protests

A national security law enacted by China in 2020 sparked a series of pro-democracy protests (Image: AP Photo/Vincent Yu, file)

Yu said he saw the God ID being used to keep tabs on Hong Kong protesters and civil rights activists by monitoring their locations and devices, their network information, SIM card identifiers, IP addresses and communications.

ByteDance said in a statement that Yu’s allegations were “baseless.”

“It’s strange that Mr. Yu has never made these allegations in the five years since he left Flipagram in July 2018,” the company said, referring to an app that ByteDance later shut down for business reasons.

“His actions are clearly aimed at attracting media attention.” “We plan to vigorously counter what we believe are unfounded claims and allegations in this complaint,” ByteDance said.

Yu’s lawyer said he decided to press the allegations because he was “disturbed to hear TikTok’s CEO’s recent testimony before Congress” when Shou Zi Chew, a Singaporean, vehemently denied that Chinese authorities had access to have user data.

The TikTok logo can be seen in this photo illustration

TikTok was available in Hong Kong until it was phased out in 2020 following the introduction of the National Security Law (Image: Illustration by Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“Telling the truth openly in court is risky, but societal change requires the courage to speak the truth,” Jung said. “It is important to him that public policy is based on accurate information, so he is determined to tell his story.”

In a previous lawsuit, Yu accused ByteDance of functioning as a “propaganda tool” for the Chinese Communist Party by promoting nationalist content and downgrading content that does not serve the party’s goals. He also said that ByteDance has responded to the Communist Party’s requests for information sharing.

Yu also accused ByteDance of crawling competitor and user content in order to repost it on its sites in order to exaggerate key engagement metrics. He says he was fired because he shared his concerns about “misconduct” he had seen with others at the company.

In mainland China, ByteDance operates Douyin, which caters to the domestic market, while TikTok is a global app available in most other countries.

TikTok withdrew from Hong Kong in 2020 after the introduction of the national security law. Anyone trying to open TikTok from Hong Kong will see a message that says “We regret to inform you that we have ceased operating TikTok in Hong Kong.”

MORE: TikTok prankster Mizzy says he made ‘a very stupid, stupid mistake’

MORE: Five TikTokers are suing Montana over state’s app ban

Justin Scaccy

InternetCloning is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button