Wray said the FBI was concerned that the Chinese had the ability to control the app’s recommendation algorithm, “which allows them to manipulate content, and if they want to, to use it for influence operations. ”
He also asserted that China could use the app to collect data on its users that could be used for traditional espionage operations.
“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 US. That should concern us,” Wray told an audience at the University of Michigan. Those concerns are similar to ones he raised during congressional appearances last month when the issue came up. And they’re being voiced during ongoing dialogue in Washington about the app. Concerned about China’s influence over TikTok, the Trump administration in 2020 threatened to ban the app within the US and pressured ByteDance to sell TikTok to a US company. US officials and the firm are now in talks over a possible deal that would resolve American security concerns, a process that Wray said was taking place across US government agencies.
“As director Wray has previously said, the FBI’s input is being considered as part of our ongoing negotiations with the US government,” TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter 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 and have already made significant strides toward implementing those solutions. ”
TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance. The TikTok statement on Friday noted that ByteDance is a private company and that “TikTok, which offers the TikTok service in the US, is a US company bound by US laws”.