US government launches criminal investigation into TikTok’s father, reports | CNN Business
According to Forbes and The New York Times, the US government has launched a criminal investigation into TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, for improperly accessing the personal information of several US citizens.
News of the investigation, which reportedly involved a subpoena to ByteDance along with a series of FBI interviews, comes after TikTok confirmed in December that four ByteDance employees had been fired in connection with the incident, after ‘an internal review.
Two of the fired employees were based in China and two were based in the United States, TikTok said at the time. Among the TikTok users who were surveilled were two journalists, including the Forbes reporter who first reported on the Justice Department’s investigation on Friday.
The DOJ, the FBI and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who is also involved in the investigation, declined to comment. TikTok did not respond to a request for comment.
The reported investigation reflects growing pressure on a company that US officials say poses a national security risk. Policymakers fear the Chinese government could pressure TikTok or its parents to hand over the data TikTok collects on its American users. The concerns have led to the widespread ban of TikTok on official government devices in the United States, the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
The Biden administration has gone one step further, threatening TikTok with a US domestic ban unless its Chinese owners sell their shares in the popular social media app, which is used by more than 100 million North- americans
The surveillance that led to the firings saw ByteDance employees accessing information on the device, such as IP addresses used by journalists. Initial reports about the incident suggested that employees had been looking for the source of the leaks to the press. There is currently no evidence that the Chinese government directed or participated in the surveillance.