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FBI ‘extremely concerned’ by TikTok

TikTok says it is in talks with US government to ‘satisfy all reasonable US national security concerns’  (Associated Press)
TikTok says it is in talks with US government to ‘satisfy all reasonable US national security concerns’ (Associated Press)

The head of the FBI has said that he is “extremely concerned” about the perceived national security threat posed by TikTok.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told US lawmakers that the Chinese-owned app could be used in a variety of ways to compromise the security of users, or even influence the way they vote or perceive certain issues.

“We do have national security concerns at least from the FBI’s end about TikTok,” Mr Wray told members of the House Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday.

“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 chose. Or to control software on millions of devices, which gives it opportunity to potentially technically compromise personal devices.”

TikTok has an estimated 140 million users in the US, having overtaken Google as the world’s most popular website last year.

A spokesperson for TikTok said it was in discussions with regulators and the US government in an effort to ease concerns about the influence it has and the data it handles.

“As Director Wray specified in his remarks, the FBI’s input is being considered as part of our ongoing negotiations with the US government,” the spokesperson said.

“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 US national security concerns.”

In 2019, the US Army and US Navy banned enlistees from downloading and using TikTok due to security concerns, with a bulletin from the Defense Department describing the app as having “potential risks associated with its use”.