Speaking to the U.S. Congress, FBI Director Christopher Wray expressed “extreme” concern over China’s ability to “weaponize” data belonging to U.S. TikTok users, cyberscoop (opens in a new tab) announced earlier this week.
TikTok is currently one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, allowing users to create short videos (approx. 15 seconds) on any topic.
However, TikTok is built and owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which poses a problem for US authorities, especially given the Chinese government’s control over data generated by local companies. Under Chinese law, the government can force any company to hand over any data it holds on its servers.
The company tried to appease the US government transferring user data to Oracle servers (opens in a new tab) stored in the country in June last year, but a BuzzFeed news report (opens in a new tab) published shortly after, claimed that all these figures were still visible in China.
During a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee, Wray said that the APIs built by ByteDance into TikTok pose a national security risk. According to him, Beijing could use them to “control the data collection of millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm that can be used for influence operations.”
In other words, China may seek to sow divisions by influencing the way US TikTok users view certain events and issues.
Social media companies are no strangers to the activities of influencers. In 2014 Facebook has started to improve its algorithm (opens in a new tab) to show only certain types of posts to your users. As such, it was accused of emotionally manipulating users.
Wray further addressed how Chinese companies could pose a serious security risk because they “do whatever the Chinese government wants in terms of sharing information or serving as a tool for the Chinese government.” […] that in itself is reason enough to be very concerned.”
While US lawmakers have so far refrained from banning, TikTok remains incredibly popular, replacing Facebook, Instagram and Twitter among younger users, and they are unlikely to leave the platform without having to find an alternative.
- Protect your browsing with the best VPNs (opens in a new tab) in the shop