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FBI Director says TikTok is a threat to national security

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As reported by Associated Press, while speaking at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, FBI Director Christopher Wray raised concerns that TikTok is a threat to national security, warning that a government controls the app with “values different from our own”.

The Chinese technology company ByteDance owns TikTok, which has raised concerns in the US as China could use the app to collect data on its users and can then use this data to conduct traditional espionage operations.

At the House Homeland Security Committee hearing, Wray voiced his concerns, claiming that TikTok is a threat and that the Chinese Communist Party can use the app to push influence through TikTok’s powerful recommendation algorithm.

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“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,” Wray said at a speaking engagement at the University of Michigan on Friday. He also added: “That should concern us.”

How can the Chinese government access TikTok’s user data?

The National Security Laws of China require private companies operating in the country to provide their data to the government if requested. Therefore, the Chinese government can access the data that TikTok collects, like how you consume its content, from the device you are using to how long you watch a post for and what categories you like.

“The Chinese government has shown a willingness to steal Americans’ data on a scale that dwarfs any other,” Wray said. He added Americans should be very concerned about giving China “that much ability to shape content,” “engage in influence operations” and “access to people’s devices.”

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In recent news, over a dozen separate statements from nine different TikTok employees showed that engineers in China had access to U.S. data from at least September 2021 through January 2022. TikTok’s Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas denied any allegations and testified in a Senate hearing that the company doesn’t store American data in China.