The Federal Bureau of Investigation director issued a public warning about the “national security concerns” that the Chinese-owned TikTok app may pose.
The well-known social media network for exchanging material grew in popularity, particularly during the pandemic. With a billion users globally, TikTok allows users of all ages to publish and share content. However, American investigators looked into the system and concluded that the Chinese might use the platform as an informational weapon. With millions of users around the country, TikTok has already made its way into the United States. As a result, the FBI warned about the risks associated with utilizing the program.
Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, expressed his concerns about TikTok’s privacy practices before the Homeland Security Committee. Days after Republican legislators filed a measure to outlaw the program in the US, he issued the warning.
“They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations if they so chose, or to control software on millions of devices, which gives it an opportunity to compromise personal devices potentially technically,” Wray said.
ByteDance, a Chinese company, is in charge of TikTok’s operations. Federal investigations suggest that ByteDance may benefit from the information of American users. Applications like TikTok are allowed to access user data under Chinese national security rules. However, TikTok refuted the accusations and said they could not access US-based data since the company still kept it there.
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TikTok responding to the allegation from FBI
A TikTok representative refuted the FBI’s allegations. The spokesman also gave the American authorities assurances that they would abide by all country data protection and privacy regulations. But even before Wray issued the warnings, TikTok faced criticisms from several influential figures, including former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.
“As Director Wray specified in his remarks, the FBI’s input is being considered as part of our ongoing negotiations with the US Government. While we can’t comment on the specifics of those confidential discussions, we are confident that we are on a path to satisfy all reasonable US national security concerns fully,” the spokesperson said.
“In light of this new report, we ask that your agency immediately initiate a Section 5 investigation based on apparent deception by TikTok and coordinate this work with any national security or counter-intelligence investigation that the US Department of Justice may initiate,” said lawmakers following a BuzzFeed leak sending TikTok under public scrutiny.
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To ban the program
As several authorities attempted to prohibit the program from the US, TikTok again faces difficulties. Legislators ultimately forced the federal government to ban TikTok from the United States a few months ago. TikTok, however, filed an action to have the accusations dismissed. As a result, the issue subsided for some time. However, when Wray brought TikTok back into the forefront, many people now had the power to demand a ban.
“This is not something you would normally hear me say, but Donald Trump was right on TikTok years ago if your country uses Huawei if your kids are on TikTok. So the ability for China to have undue influence is a much greater challenge and a much more immediate threat than any kind of actual, armed conflict,” said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner.
Photo Credit: Graeme Jennings