More On: TikTok
A new report found that hundreds of people who worked for ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, also worked for Chinese state media.
Forbes looked at a lot of the tech company's employees' LinkedIn profiles and found that at least 300 of them had worked for Chinese state media in the past, and 15 of them still do.
The report said that 15 of the current ByteDance employees also work for Chinese state media, such as Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International, and China Central/China Global Television. These groups are called "foreign government functionaries" by the U.S. State Department.
TikTok is getting more attention because U.S. officials keep saying the app is a threat to national security: In June, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr asked the CEOs of Google and Apple to take the app off their stores. He did this because reports say the app collects "swaths of sensitive data."
"TikTok is not at all what it seems to be. It's not just an app for sharing memes and funny videos. "That's a wolf in sheep's clothing," wrote Carr. "At its core, TikTok is a sophisticated surveillance tool that collects a lot of personal and sensitive data," says the New York Times.
Jennifer Banks, a spokeswoman for ByteDance, told Forbes that hiring is based "strictly on the professional ability of the person to do the job."
"For our businesses that sell to China, this includes people who used to work for the government or state media in China," she said. "Employees from dozens of markets outside of China also have experience in government, public policy, and media organizations."
In response to the 15 profiles of ByteDance employees who also worked for Chinese state media, she said that ByteDance "does not allow employees to hold second or part-time jobs or any outside business activity." She said this was because it would "cause a conflict of interest."
TikTok recently admitted that employees outside of the U.S. could access user information, but it insisted that this access required "robust cybersecurity protocols and authorization" from its U.S. security team.
Gizmodo said that internal documents that were leaked from TikTok show that the company actively pushed employees to "downplay the China association" to help deal with the growing attention and criticism.