Chinese-owned video app TikTok may leave American users unprotected to Beijing’s spying claimed two senior US senators and urged the government to study national security risks possibly posed by the app.
The Directorate of National Intelligence was asked by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator Tom Cotton, to conduct an assessment of the national security risks” posed by TikTok.
“With over 110 million downloads in the US alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore,” they added.
It has been claimed by Cotton and Schumer that ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, could be forced to share user information with Chinese intelligence. It could also conceivably offer Beijing’s spies a backdoor into users’ smartphones and computers, similar to allegations against Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.
The further claimed that Chinese laws could compel the company “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.” TikTok collects substantial personal data from users, making it a security risk, they noted.
TikTok has achieved great popularity in the past two years with 500 million users worldwide. It is mainly a platform to produce and publish music-synced videos up to 60 seconds long.
It has been warned by the senators that it could potentially be used to influence voters in next year’s election in the same way Russians manipulated US social media in the 2016 campaign.
“Questions have also been raised regarding the potential for censorship or manipulation of certain content,” they said.
“TikTok reportedly censors materials deemed politically sensitive to the Chinese Communist Party, including content related to the recent Hong Kong protests, as well as references to Tiananmen Square, Tibetan and Taiwanese independence, and the treatment of Uighurs.”
However, they added, “ByteDance is still required to adhere to the laws of China.”