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  • Writer's picturePeter DiSilvio

FBI Director "Extremely Concerned" About TikTok

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

This blog has extensively covered the many issues with the TikTok platform including data insecurity [1] [2], the potential for voter manipulation [3], and the dangers the platform poses to aspiring political actors [4], but it seems others are taking notice of the dangers of the site as well.

This week the Director of the Federal bureau of Investigations, Christopher Wray, told Congress that he is "extremely concerned" about TikTok. "We do have national security concerns at least from the FBI's end about TikTok," Wray told members of the House Homeland Security Committee in a hearing about worldwide threats. "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. [5]"

Comments like this should make American's very concerned about the impact TikTok is having and may have in the future. This is especially true in light of recent reporting by the New York Times that China and others are using Private Detectives in the United States to spy on and perhaps even set up dissidents living in the U.S. [6]. Once cannot help but wonder if the Chinese government using the data gathered on TikTok coupled with in-person assets on the ground might prove a danger to opponents living abroad?

The danger of TikTok is only growing and, while the intelligence community is sounding the alarm, none of our leaders seem to want to take on the growing tech giant.

What Can Be Done?

The most obvious solution to the TikTok problem is an outright ban. This idea was almost implemented by President Trump in 2020 when he used his national security powers to outlaw any and all transactions between TikTok's parent company and U.S. citizens. [7]. Perhaps unfortunately, this order was revoked by President Biden upon taking office. This back and forth illustrates how easily executive actions can be undone by a successor executive and the need for permanent solutions to be passed by the Congress.

Congress, if they wanted to stop short of a complete prohibition or TikTok or the algorithms that feed it, they could pass laws to create greater transparency of where the data being harvested by social media companies is going. Congress could also pass protections for consumers data in general.

It is unclear what actions, if any, will be taken. What is clear is that TikTok poses a legitimate threat to the world and actions need to be taken to address the damage it can cause before it is too late.



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