TikTok poses security concerns, FBI director says

FBI Director Christopher Wray
Annabelle Gordon
FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing to discuss worldwide threats on Wednesday, March 8, 2023.

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday reaffirmed to lawmakers that TikTok poses a national security and privacy concern, potentially collecting and controlling the data of millions of Americans and swaying public opinion.

Wray, who was testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on worldwide threats, agreed with lawmakers that TikTok, which is owned by Chinese-based company ByteDance, has the ability to collect information on American citizens if it wanted to.

Wray was responding to questions raised by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who also wanted to know whether the social media platform could also promote narratives on the app that pit Americans against each other.

For instance, he asked the director whether TikTok could push for videos “arguing why Taiwan belongs to China and why the U.S. should not intervene.”

Wray said although that is a possibility, it could be difficult to see “the outward signs of it happening if it was happening.”

Wray also noted that China does not have clear lines between the public and the private sector.

In this April 14, 2021 file photo, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP)

He alluded that the main concern driving this issue is that under Chinese laws, private companies, like ByteDance, could be required to comply with requests from the government for access to data from social media apps such as TikTok.

“I think the most fundamental piece that cuts across every one of those risks and threats that you mentioned, that I think Americans need to understand, is something that’s very sacred in our country: the difference between the private sector and the public sector,” Wray told Rubio.

“That’s a line that is nonexistent in the way the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] operates,” he added. 

Rubio then asked if the U.S. should refrain from banning the app because it is popular among users under the age of 35 despite the concerns raised by lawmakers.

Wray said, “Not from my perspective.”

“I guess my point is that just to tie it all up, [TikTok] is a substantial national security threat for the country of a kind that we didn’t face in the past,” Rubio said before moving on to the next topic.

The hearing came a day after Democratic senators introduced a bill intended to give more power to the federal government to regulate or ban technology tied to a foreign adversaries such as TikTok. 

The legislation, known as the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act, is sponsored by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.). 

Just last week, the White House issued an order requiring all federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices within 30 days, citing security risks the app poses to sensitive government data. 

Tags China Christopher Wray Christopher Wray Marco Rubio National security TikTok Val Demings

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