FBI Director Christopher Wray warned of the problem TikTok presents to national security. The platform, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has been under fire for two years now, when then-President Donald Trump began to show concern and threatened to ban the social network nationwide.
Wray made these comments Friday during a talk at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. There he claimed in statements picked up by Fox News that the FBI was aware of Chinese officials’ power to control various TikTok algorithms "which allows them to manipulate content, and if they want to, to use it for influence operations."
The fact that the Chinese government has access to Americans’ data is what worries the FBI director most. During his speech, he also asserted that the Chinese social network collects user information that can be used for espionage:
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. That should concern us.
China is the most serious threat to the country
Wray continued his lecture by talking about the Chinese government, which he considered one of the greatest dangers that the country has to face: "There is no country, no government, that represents a more serious, more persistent threat to our innovation, our ideas and our economic security than the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government," he assured during a Q&A session.
Wray has been warning for some time about TikTok’s danger to national security. One of the last times was during his appearance before Congress just a month ago:
Under Chinese law, Chinese companies are required to essentially -- and I’m going to shorthand here -- basically do whatever the Chinese government wants them to do in terms of sharing information or serving as a tool of the Chinese government. That’s plenty of reason by itself to be extremely concerned.
TikTok’s negotiations with the United States
Wray also recently claimed that the Chinese company would be in talks with U.S. officials with the intention of reaching an agreement that would put an end to these national security concerns.
He confirmed that these negotiations are ongoing and will affect all U.S. government agencies. Brooke Oberwetter, a spokeswoman for the platform, also assured in an emailed statement that the social media giant is in conversation with the federal administration:
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.
On the other hand, TikTok's Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas sought to reassure that U.S. users' data was fully protected: "We will never share data, period."