Ex-ByteDance exec says CCP has TikTok backdoor

A new lawsuit against TikTok owner ByteDance could discredit the company’s primary defence against efforts by some Western lawmakers to ban the app.

What happened: Yintao Yu, a former engineering lead for ByteDance in the US, claims that TikTok’s code included a “backdoor” to give Chinese government officials “supreme access” to user data, regardless of where it was hosted. 

  • In the wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed last week, Yu also alleges that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) instructed ByteDance to suppress or promote content as it saw fit—for example, he claims ByteDance boosted content that “expressed hatred for Japan.”
  • In a statement to The New York Times, ByteDance said Yu’s claims are “baseless.”

Why it matters: Yu’s allegations undermine ByteDance’s assurances that user data in Western countries is secure because it is stored on US servers, and will give ammunition to a growing number of lawmakers and security officials who want to see TikTok banned.

Zoom out: Canada, the US, Britain, France, and New Zealand have all banned TikTok from government devices, and a pair of bills that would give the US President the power to ban the app are working their way through Congress.