TikTok reportedly compiled a list of users who were being monitored after they watched gay content on the app, according to former employees who protested the policy.
The popular video-sharing service kept tabs on users who frequented clips that were tagged under headings including LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), according to The Wall Street Journal.
Former TikTok employees told The Journal that information about users’ viewing habits were compiled and stored on a dashboard.
The ex-employees based out of the company’s offices in the US, UK, and Australia said they flagged the issue to top executives in 2020 and 2021, according to The Journal.
The former employees expressed their concerns that the information would be shared with outside parties or could be used to blackmail TikTok users, The Journal reported.
Social media companies including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and others have been criticized in years past for gathering user data on their online habits for the purpose of tailoring their targeted ads.
The Post has sought comment from TikTok and its parent company, the Chinese-based multinational ByteDance.
“Safeguarding the privacy and security of people who use TikTok is one of our top priorities,” TikTok said in a statement provided to The Journal.
Former employees of TikTok have accused the company of tracking users who consume gay content on the app.AFP
Last year, the prominent LGBT advocacy group GLAAD, which is an acronym for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, demanded that tech companies take steps to safeguard user data and privacy.
“This includes ceasing the practice of targeted surveillance advertising, in which companies use powerful algorithms to recommend content to users in order to maximize profit,” GLAAD said in the report.
TikTok’s handling of user data and the fear that its Chinese parent company’s ties to the ruling Communist Party in Beijing makes American users vulnerable to espionage are at the source of US lawmakers’ concerns about the app.
Calls to ban TikTok in the US have grown despite the company denying that it is providing the Chinese government with Americans’ user data.
US lawmakers have called to ban the app over concerns of Chinese espionage.Christopher Sadowski
TikTok has already been banned from government-issued phones in countries such as Canada and Australia over concerns about whether the Chinese government can access user data or influence what people see on the popular app.
TikTok said on Tuesday its head of US trust and safety, Eric Han, will depart the company on May 12.
In March, a Canadian cybersecurity firm found that TikTok’s parent company was tracking the websites of dozens of US state governments.
The Biden administration has navigated tough Republican opposition toward TikTok, as GOP lawmakers have called for a crackdown — and hit Democrats over their permissive stance on the Chinese app.