A former ByteDance employee engaged in a wrongful termination case has claimed that the Chinese government has “supreme access” to user data.
Yintao Yu is a former head of engineering for ByteDance’s U.S. operations for a little over a year. He worked for the company from August 2017 to November 2018.
In his case, Yu has made various claims including that ByteDance allegedly stole intellectual property from other companies, and has reportedly referred to ByteDance as a “useful propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party”.
Yu has filed his case with San Francisco Superior Court where he reportedly claims his termination was a retaliation for whistleblowing in regards to the alleged theft of intellectual property. Now that the case is under way Yu doesn’t appear to be holding anything back.
TikTok has been the subject of intensifying US scrutiny as multiple government agencies have taken steps to ban the app from state-owned devices. Critics argue that ByteDance could be compelled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to hand over US user data or use the app as a vector for Chinese propaganda.
The proposed US solution would be a forced divestiture of China-based ByteDance from TikTok. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew however has proposed a compromise wherein US user data would be stored on servers in the United States and administered by US-based Oracle, this plan is referred to by TikTok as Project Texas.
Despite constant meetings and hearings, the fate of TikTok in the US remains in limbo. This new information from Yintao Yu could influence the app’s fate, but Yu’s claims have yet to be verified by any other source.