China may be exploiting TikTok to collect user data, FBI says

FBI Director Chris Wray raised national security concerns about TikTok on Friday, warning that the Chinese social media app could be used for spying operations, AP News reported.

The FBI director said at an event at the University of Michigan that he fears China has the ability to control TikTok’s recommendation algorithm, according to AP News. ByteDance, a Chinese internet technology company headquartered in Beijing, owns the TikTok app.

TikTik app is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. It has one billion active users spread across 154 countries. In the United States, it has around 80 million monthly active users.

The algorithm’s recommendations allow China to “manipulate the content and, if desired, use it for influence operations”, Wray said. He added that China could collect user data for traditional spying 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 at odds with what is in the best interest of the United States”Wray said. “That should concern us.”

In August 2020, former US President Donald Trump set a deadline for TikTok to find a US buyer. He issued executive orders that would effectively ban TikTok from operating in the United States if ByteDance did not sell it within 45 days.

In June 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order revoking the Trump administration’s ban. The executive order called on Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to investigate apps linked to foreign adversaries.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is considering a proposal to allow TikTok to continue operating in the United States. The proposal would see TikTok route US user traffic through Oracle, a Texas-based technology company, which would audit the algorithm’s recommendations.

TikTok said in June that it had started routing US user data through US-based servers owned by Oracle, according to The Verge. However, BuzzFeed News reported that US user data was still being repeatedly accessed from China.

According to Bloomberg, Wray referred to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States on Friday. “Whether or not there is something that could adequately address these concerns is the result of many discussions within the interagency.” , did he declare.

In response to Wray’s comments, a TikTok spokesperson told Insider: “As Director Wray has previously said, the FBI’s input is considered as part of our ongoing negotiations with the US government. Although we cannot comment on the details of these confidential discussions, we are confident that we are on track to fully satisfy all reasonable national security concerns of the United States and have already made significant progress toward implementation. of these solutions.

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