TikTok reportedly kept close tabs on which of its users watched LGBTQ content.
According to a new investigation from The Wall Street Journal, TikTok kept an internal dashboard–accessible to employees–that catalogued videos about different topics, including LGBTQ-related content. The dashboard then tracked users who watched those videos, and kept a “list” of them, including their account ID numbers, former TikTok staffers told WSJ.
TikTok employees in the U.S., U.K., and Australia reportedly raised concerns about this “list” in 2020 and 2021, saying they “feared employees might share the data with outside parties, or that it could be used to blackmail users,” WSJ reports.
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Other employees apparently argued in favor of collecting the data, saying that a user viewing LGBTQ content didn’t necessarily mean they were part of the LGBTQ community.
A TikTok spokesperson echoed that argument to WSJ, saying there are people who aren’t bakers but enjoy watching content about baking.
They added that the employee dashboard displaying this data was deleted in the U.S. nearly a year ago, but didn’t specify whether the dashboard is still accessible in the U.K. and/or Australia.
The WSJ reports that TikTok higher-ups became concerned with how many employees could access this kind of viewership data (i.e. specific video topics and “clusters” of user IDs that watched them), and moved the data itself to TikTok’s U.S. unit, where fewer people would have access.
“Safeguarding the privacy and security of people who use TikTok is one of our top priorities,” TikTok said in a statement.
As you probably know, data privacy is far from a new topic for TikTok. It–along with the matter of TikTok’s Beijing-based owner ByteDance–is at the center of U.S. lawmakers’ ongoing attempts to ban TikTok in the States.