Is this even a surprise? The allegations that TikTok is a mass surveillance app run by the Chinese government have been lodged for months, but finally, the Biden Justice Department has decided to investigate whether the owner of the social media app that’s popular among young Americans has been engaged in espionage (via NYT):
BREAKING: The Justice Department and FBI are investigating TikTok over allegations that company employees spied on journalists, a law enforcement official says. https://t.co/A1UzbRlCEu— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 17, 2023
US DoJ probes ByteDance’s use of TikTok to track journalists https://t.co/tSkKrDXaDI— Financial Times (@FT) March 16, 2023
BREAKING: DOJ investigating possible surveillance of U.S. journalists by the owners of TikTok, sources tell ABC News. https://t.co/oB7880BcKq— ABC News (@ABC) March 17, 2023
The Justice Department is investigating the surveillance of American citizens, including several journalists who cover the tech industry, by the Chinese company that owns TikTok, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The investigation, which began late last year, appears to be tied to the admission in December by the company, ByteDance, that its employees had inappropriately obtained the data of American TikTok users, including that of two reporters and a few of their associates.
The department’s criminal division, the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia are investigating ByteDance, which is based in Beijing and has close ties with China’s government, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
A Justice Department spokesman had no comment.
Confirmation of the investigation comes as the White House hardens its stance toward forcing the company to address national security concerns about TikTok. They include fears that China might be using the popular video service to gather data about or spy on Americans, undermine democratic institutions and foster internet addictions among young people.
The Times added that the possible criminal inquiry stemmed from a Forbes magazine reporter, who claimed she was being tracked by the app. There has been a growing bipartisan calling to ban or block the app, which is reassuring, but I doubt the White House is going to be moving a light speed to do much of anything on this front for now.
The app has led to some facepalm-worthy moments, like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the now-booted chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announcing on TikTok that he had been removed from the body by Speaker Kevin McCarthy.