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FBI Director Chris Wray Warns of TikTok Espionage From China


  • FBI Director Chris Wray said on Friday that he has national security concerns about TikTok, per AP News.
  • TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese internet technology company headquartered in Beijing.
  • Wray warned that China could use TikTok to collect user data for espionage operations, AP News said.

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

Wray told an audience during an event at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy that he has concerns about how China has the ability to control the recommendation algorithm of TikTok, according to AP News.

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese internet technology company headquartered in Beijing.

The TikTik app,  a short-form video hosting service, is one of the world’s most popular social media platforms. It has one billion active users spread across 154 countries. In the US, it has an estimated 80 million active monthly users.

The algorithm recommendations enable China to “manipulate content, and if they want to, to use it for influence operations,” Wray said, per AP News. He added that China could collect users’ data for traditional espionage operations, the news agency reported.

“All of these things are in the hands of a government that doesn’t share our values and that has a mission that’s very much at odds with what’s in the best interests of the United States,” Wray said, per AP News. “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 US if ByteDance did not sell it within a 45-day deadline.

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

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

TikTok said in June that it started routing American users’ data via US-based servers owned by Oracle, per The Verge. However, BuzzFeed News reported that US user data was still being repeatedly accessed from China.

According to Bloomberg, Wray referred on Friday to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. “Whether or not there is something that could adequately address those concerns is a product of very much discussion within the interagency.”

In response to Wray’s comments, a TikTok spokesperson told Insider: “As Director Wray has previously said, 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 and have already made significant strides toward implementing those solutions.”