TikTok, Forbes go back and forth over ByteDance’s alleged monitoring tactics

Forbes is standing by its reporting.

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CULVER CITY, CA: TikTok has denied the credibility of a Forbes article that claimed the app’s parent company, ByteDance, planned to use the social media platform to monitor specific Americans’ personal location. 

The article said that, according to materials reviewed by Forbes, ByteDance’s internal audit team in at least two instances “planned to collect TikTok data about the location of a U.S. citizen who had never had an employment relationship with the company.”

TikTok’s communications team released a series of tweets on Thursday, claiming that Forbes’ article left out part of TikTok’s statement “that disproved the feasibility of its core allegation.”

“TikTok does not collect precise GPS location information from U.S. users, meaning TikTok could not monitor U.S. users in the way the article suggested,” the statement said. 

The comms team also said that TikTok has never been used to “target” members of the U.S. government, activists, public figures or journalists, and that the internal audit team follows industry-standard processes to acquire information needed "to conduct internal investigations of violations of the company codes of conduct.”

“Any use of internal audit resources as alleged by Forbes would be grounds for immediate dismissal of company personnel,” the statement concluded. 

The author of the Forbes article, reporter Emily Baker White, shared a response via Twitter on Friday morning. 

“We never mentioned GPS in the story. In fact, we quoted their spokesperson saying they collect approx location via IP address. Not using GPS does not mean they could not use that approx location to monitor certain individuals,” White said. 

White added that while she is glad TikTok said it has not been used to “target” specific groups, she “is nonetheless concerned that they planned to use it to monitor specific Americans,” which she claims Forbes reported. 

“Neither TikTok nor ByteDance denied anything we reported, either in the pre-publication process, when we told them what we planned to report and asked for comment, or since then,” White said, adding that neither company has requested a story update either. 

John Paczkowski, executive editor of tech and innovation at Forbes, also tweeted a statement

“We are confident in our sourcing, and we stand by our reporting,” he said. 

In August, Instagram responded to user concerns about the sharing of their specific location data by saying it does not give user location to others.

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