Home Tech A TikTok Whistleblower Got DC’s Attention. Do His Claims Add Up?

A TikTok Whistleblower Got DC’s Attention. Do His Claims Add Up?

0 comment
A TikTok Whistleblower Got DC’s Attention. Do His Claims Add Up?

Despite not holding a senior position, Goziker claims his main role at TikTok was to “oversee” Project Texas to ensure the social media app’s plan to secure US user data would be effective. The goal was to put in place a set of safeguards that would satisfy the Commission on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency charged with evaluating the national security risks associated with foreign companies acquiring or taking major stakes in American companies. CFIUS has the power to force companies to unwind deals it deems risky, and since 2019 has been investigating ByteDance’s 2017 purchase of a lip-syncing app called Musical.ly, which was later merged with TikTok.

Goziker claims he interviewed more than three dozen people at TikTok and ByteDance about Project Texas, according to court records. He says he discovered flaws in the initiative that led him to refuse to “sign” the initiative, despite alleged pressure from his manager and other executives at the company. Goziker tried to raise his concerns with TikTok’s top management, including its CEO and board of directors, court documents show.

Goziker claims in court filings that he found evidence that TikTok’s software could have sent data to China in January 2022 — weeks before he was fired. He claims in the documents that through “collaborative and deliberate joint effort with ByteDance engineers from mainland China,” he obtained “a verified artifact” in TikTok’s software that connected the platform to Toutiao, a popular Chinese news aggregation app that is also owned by ByteDance. Goziker said his findings showed that U.S. data from TikTok could still flow to the People’s Republic, despite TikTok’s claims to the contrary. The documents do not contain detailed documentary evidence of his allegations.

In March last year years, two weeks after Goziker’s claims appeared The Washington Post, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appeared before Congress and was criticized for his app’s links to China. Afterwards, U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican, each sent to ask to TikTok about the claims aired in the After story.

TikTok responded by saying that many of the accusations in the article were unfounded. It stated that the reference to Toutiao in TikTok’s code “does not in any way indicate a correlation, integration of, or network connectivity between Toutiao and TikTok,” adding that the “Toutiao news application cannot disrupt TikTok data flows once Project Texas is completed.” completely.”

In the lawsuits and an email record reviewed by WIRED, Goziker revealed that he had also been in contact with a Forbes journalist who has written a number of influential stories about TikTok’s data security practices and links to ByteDance. In June 2022, when the journalist was working at BuzzFeed News, they published a article based on 80 internal meetings at TikTok in which nine different employees reportedly made statements “indicating that engineers in China had access to U.S. data between September 2021 and January 2022.”

Goziker claimed to WIRED that he was the source of the recordings. Forbes told WIRED it does not comment on the purchase.

Senator Warner and Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, later cited that BuzzFeed story in a letter urging the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into TikTok. Politico reported this month that the agency heeded that call and opened an investigation into whether the app “misled its users by denying that individuals in China had access to their data.”

As Goziker filed its lawsuits, U.S. lawmakers came closer to banning the app than ever before. The House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill last month that would force ByteDance to sell TikTok within six months before it would become illegal to download the app from U.S. app stores. The legislation is now being considered by the Senate and President Joe Biden has already said he would sign it into law.

You may also like