FBI Director Chris Wray has raised national security concerns about TikTok, warning that control of the popular video-sharing app is in the hands of China’s government “which does not share our values”.
Wray said the FBI was concerned about China’s ability to control TikTok’s recommendation algorithm “which would allow them to manipulate content and, if they wanted, they could manipulate it to influence users.” He also confirmed that China could use the app to collect data on its users and then exploit it for traditional espionage operations.
“All of these things are in the hands of a government that does not share our values, and has a mission that is very much in conflict with what is in the best interests of the United States,” Wray told an audience at the University of Michigan’s Gerald Ford School of Public Policy. This is something we should be concerned about.” These concerns are similar to those raised by Ray during his appearance before Congress last month when he raised the issue.
It is noteworthy that the administration of former US President Donald Trump threatened in 2020, due to fears of China’s influence in TikTok, to ban the application in the United States and pressured the ByteDance company that owns the application to sell it to an American company.
Now, US officials and the company are in talks about a potential deal that would resolve US security concerns, a process Wray said is taking place through US government agencies.
“As Director Ray has previously said, the FBI’s input is being considered as part of our ongoing negotiations with the US government,” TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter said in a statement. She added, “While we cannot comment on the specifics of those confidential discussions, we are confident that we are on the path to fully satisfy all reasonable US national security concerns, and we have already made significant strides toward implementing those solutions.”
Although TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, TikTok’s statement on Friday indicated that ByteDance is a private company and that TikTok Inc., which provides TikTok service in the United States, “is an American company bound by the laws of the United States”.
At a Senate hearing last September, TikTok’s chief operating officer, Vanessa Pappas, responded to questions from members of both parties by saying that the company protects all data from US users and that it cannot be accessed by Chinese government officials.
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