“We do have national security concerns, obviously from the FBI’s end, about TikTok,” Wray said during his testimony to Congress on Tuesday.
“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 choose, or to control software on millions of devices.”
TikTok’s status in the US has come under review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a powerful government inter-agency which is charged with scrutinizing foreign investments that could have national security implications.
The app’s operators have been in talks with the CFIUS about allowing it to continue operating in the US without having to sever ties with its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.
Anti-China hawks on Capitol Hill have demanded that TikTok cut all links with ByteDance and Beijing as a precondition for it being allowed to continue operating in the US.
The Post has sought comment from TikTok.
Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday that China has been the most active foreign entity in terms of stealing Americans’ personal and business data.
“China’s vast hacking program is the world’s largest and they have stolen more Americans’ personal and business data than every other nation combined,” Wray said.
The Post has sought comment from the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC.
TikTok, the video-sharing app which was founded in 2016, has exploded in popularity, particularly among younger Americans who have gravitated away from traditional social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
The app is said to have more than 1.3 billion users worldwide.
In 2020, then-President Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok in the US if ByteDance didn’t sell the app to an American company.
Trump withdrew the ban threat after TikTok entered into negotiations to have all of its US user data stored with cloud computing company Oracle.
Any agreement between CFIUS and TikTok would likely require the app to make sure that ByteDance as well as any other Chinese-linked entity would not have access to US user information stored on Oracle’s cloud.
Earlier this year, Brendan Carr, the commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, called on Congress to ban TikTok altogether.
The magazine quotes a TikTok spokesperson, Maureen Shanahan, who said the app collects the approximate locations of users based on their IP addresses to “among other things, help show relevant content and ads to users, comply with applicable laws, and detect and prevent fraud and inauthentic behavior.”