DOJ investigating TikTok parent company for possible spying on U.S. citizens

Washington — The Justice Department is investigating TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, for possible spying on U.S. citizens, including journalists, CBS News has confirmed. 

News of the probe comes as U.S. lawmakers have ramped up calls for action against the widely popular social media app over ByteDance’s ties to China and national security concerns about the collection of user data. The Biden administration is mulling a possible nationwide TikTok ban if ByteDance does not divest itself from the app, TikTok confirmed to CBS News on Wednesday.

Emily Baker-White, a journalist for Forbes who says she was one of reporters who had their TikTok data improperly accessed by ByteDance, was the first to report the federal investigation. The Justice Department declined to comment Friday.

ByteDance admitted in December that its employees had inappropriately obtained data from American TikTok users, including two journalists and a number of people connected to them, according to the New York Times.

“We have strongly condemned the actions of the individuals found to have been involved, and they are no longer employed at ByteDance,” ByteDance told CBS News in a statement on Friday. “Our internal investigation is still ongoing, and we will cooperate with any official investigations when brought to us.”

The federal government has already banned the app from government-issued devices and a number of lawmakers have introduced legislation that could lead to a national ban on the platform.

TikTok’s CEO is scheduled to testify to House lawmakers next Thursday.