The FBI’s Director, Chris Wray, has stated that the popular video-sharing app TikTok is a “national security concern” for the United States.
“All of these things are in the hands of a government that doesn’t share our values and that has a mission that’s very much at odds with what’s in the best interests of the United States. That should concern us,” Mr Wray said on Friday at the University of Michigan.
Last month, FBI Director discussed a similar risk, claiming that the Chinese government could use the video-sharing app to influence or control users’ devices.
“There is the possibility that the Chinese government could use (TikTok) to control data collection on millions of users or the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations,” Wray told US lawmakers.
According to Time magazine, national security laws in China require private companies operating in the country to provide their data to the government if requested. American concerns around the app’s security have persisted since TikTok launched six years ago and became the most downloaded app in the US in 2018.
However, in July this year, in response to earlier inquiries from US authorities, TikTok had indicated in mid-June that all of its data on US-based users was now stored on US-based servers operated by the American company Oracle.
TikTok had confirmed claims made in a BuzzFeed article that employees based in China had access to US users’ data, but only within “robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols” overseen by the company’s “U.S.-based security team.”
The company reiterated to the senators that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had never requested data on American users.
“We have not provided US user data to the CCP, nor would we if asked,” it said.
TikTok officials also said that while ByteDance engineers could work on the platform’s algorithms, the new protocol ensures that they can only do so in Oracle’s computing environment without extracting data from it.