On Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers that he is “extremely concerned” about TikTok’s operations in the United States.
“We do have national security concerns, obviously from the FBI’s end, about TikTok,” Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee in a hearing. “They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users, or control the recommendation algorithm which could be used for influence operations if they so choose, or to control software on millions of devices.”
While TikTok claims it doesn’t store U.S. user data in China, the Chinese government has the ability to force companies to hand over internal information.
Wray explained that law alone was “plenty of reason by itself to be extremely concerned.”
“As Director Wray specified in his remarks, the FBI’s input is being considered as part of our ongoing negotiations with the U.S. Government,” a TikTok spokesperson told CNBC. “While we can’t comment on the specifics of those confidential discussions, we are confident that we are on a path to fully satisfy all reasonable U.S. national security concerns.”
However, national security experts have raised doubts about TikTok’s security of user information. According to materials reviewed by Forbes, ByteDance – TikTok’s China-based parent company – planned to “use the TikTok app to monitor the personal location of some specific American citizens.”
“[I]n at least two cases, the Internal Audit team also planned to collect TikTok data about the location of a U.S. citizen who had never had an employment relationship with the company, the materials show,” Forbes reported last month. “It is unclear from the materials whether data about these Americans was actually collected; however, the plan was for a Beijing-based ByteDance team to obtain location data from U.S. users’ devices.”