FBI director Christopher Wray has said the Chinese-owned video app “screams” of security concerns, during a hearing before the US Senate.
The Chinese government could use TikTok to control the data of millions of American users, according to the FBI.
During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats to US security, the agency’s director, Christopher Wray, warned against the popular social media app, stressing that its control is in the hands of a government “that doesn’t share our values.”
When asked whether China could use the app to feed misinformation, Wray said “yes” and added that the agency is not sure whether this could be detected if it were to happen.
Wray said the FBI was concerned that the Chinese had the ability to control the app’s recommendation algorithm, which would allow them to choose the content that is shown to each user, and therefore influence opinions. He also asserted that China could use the app to collect data on its users that could be used for traditional espionage operations.
“This is a tool that is ultimately within the control of the Chinese government – and, to me, it screams out with national security concern,” he added.
Other top US intelligence officials including director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, CIA director William Burns and National Security Agency director Paul Nakasone agreed at the hearing that TikTok posed a threat to US national security.
Wray’s testimony has come in the same week that the White House announced it would back legislation introduced on Tuesday by a dozen senators to give President Biden’s administration new powers to ban TikTok and other foreign-based technologies if they pose national security threats.
The endorsement boosted efforts by a number of lawmakers to ban the popular app, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance and used by more than 100 million Americans.
TikTok has criticised the measure, saying in a statement that any “US ban on TikTok is a ban on the export of American culture and values to the billion-plus people who use our service worldwide.”
In the past months, at least seven states have introduced measures to block TikTok from official devices, including Maryland, South Dakota and Utah. The US military, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have also imposed similar restrictions.
In September, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office issued the social media company with a notice of intent – a legal document that precedes a potential fine – over a possible breach of UK data-protection law by failing to protect children’s privacy when using the platform.
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