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The FBI is 'extremely concerned' about China's influence on US TikTok users

The FBI is 'extremely concerned' about China's influence on US TikTok users

FBI Director Christopher Wray told US lawmakers that TikTok's activities are on 'our radar'.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has opened up about its issues over the influence TikTok has over everyday Americans.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has told US Congress the bureau has 'national security concerns' about the Chinese-based social media app.

"[Concerns] include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users," Wray said in a House Homeland Security Committee meeting, as per CNBC.

"Or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations if they so chose."

He added: "Or to control software on millions of devices, which gives it opportunity to potentially technically compromise personal devices."

Young girl relaxes with her smartphone on a sofa.
Hympi / Alamy.

He said China has the power to 'force companies to hand over internal information', which makes him and the FBI 'extremely concerned'.

TikTok says it doesn't store the data of US users in China and the company is willing to work with the FBI to allay their worries.

A spokesperson for the social media company said via a statement to CNBC: "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.

“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.”

According to the The New York Times, the Biden government has been closing in on a deal with TikTok to allow the app to operate in the US under strict security measures.

Wray revealed that the FBI is working with the Department of Justice to help come up with a suitable solution and the their input 'would be taken into account' to address the issue.

The FBI chief's fears come months after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Brendan Carr raised similar concerns.

Carr even went as far as calling for the app to be banned on Apple and Android phones in the US over fears China is 'accessing user data'.

He took to Twitter to encourage the major phone companies to pull the app due to national security concerns following a Buzzfeed investigation.

"TikTok is not just another video app. That’s the sheep’s clothing," Carr said.

"It harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing."

He added: "I’ve called on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores for its pattern of surreptitious data practices."

In another tweet, he added that TikTok is mining much more than dumb dance videos.

"It collects search and browsing histories, keystroke patterns, biometric identifiers, draft messages and metadata, plus it has collected the text, images, and videos that are stored on a device's clipboard," Carr said.

TikTok is banned on US government devices in an attempt to limit clandestine investigation by China.

The developers behind TikTok, ByteDance, are partly owned by the Chinese state and have previously been criticised for its ties with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

ByteDance's links to the CCP means that the Chinese government could potentially use TikTok for 'data espionage' against US citizens, regardless of where the data is kept.

Buzzfeed's investigation obtained leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings.

Their investigation uncovered that employees based in China have repeatedly accessed non-public data about US TikTok users.

As per Buzzfeed, one member of TikTok’s Trust and Safety department in 2021 said 'everything is seen in China'.

In another 2021 meeting, a Beijing-based engineer was referred to as the 'master admin' who 'has access to everything'.

Another recording revealed conversations between employees who are responsible for certain in-app tools.

But those responsible for certain TikTok tools did not understand fully what certain parts within the app actually did.

Featured Image Credit: Travel Wild / Alamy. Paul Brady / Alamy.

Topics: US News, News, TikTok, Crime