TikTok is feeling the heat again after a former top executive at its parent company, Byte Dance, made a series of damning claims in a wrongful termination lawsuit recently filed in San Francisco Superior Court.
Among the allegations made by Yintao Yu was that the Chinese Community Party (CCP) “maintained supreme access” to TikTok’s data stored in the United States when he worked for the company between 2017 and 2018.
Yu also said in the lawsuit that he believes ByteDance “has served as a useful propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party.”
The lawsuit comes as US lawmakers continue to consider the future of the social media app amid growing concerns about TikTok’s impact on US national security and data privacy. reported Axios.
Yu, who allegedly worked as head of engineering for ByteDance’s US operations, claimed in the lawsuit that the CCP had a “special office or unit” operating within the Beijing-based company, adding that it “played an important role by influencing “how the company advanced core communist values” within the app.
The lawsuit accused the company of promoting “nationalist content.” [que] it served both to increase engagement on ByteDance websites and to promote support for the CCP,” adding that the CCP could also access US user data through a “backdoor channel in the code.”
Yu’s lawsuit alleges that ByteDance was “aware that if the Chinese government backdoor were removed from the international/US version of the app, the Chinese government, he feared, would ban the company’s valuable Chinese version apps.”
TikTok has always insisted that the Chinese state does not have access to its user data and that American data is stored in the United States and Singapore. In response to the allegations, ByteDance said that it “will vigorously oppose what we believe to be unsubstantiated claims and allegations in this complaint.”
Since Yu left the company in 2018, TikTok has taken several steps to protect US user data, some of which are part of a $1.5 billion initiative called Project Texas.
The future of TikTok’s existence in the United States still hangs in the balance, as lawmakers across the political divide consider measures that would potentially give the US government the power to ban TikTok across the country.