US officials warned against the potential security risk posed by TikTok, a Chinese video-sharing social networking service, as legislation to ban the social media app from government devices was introduced. FBI officials and the Justice Department and Homeland Security were present at a Senate hearing to make a case against the use of Chinese app.
Senator Josh Hawley introduced the legislation aimed at banning TikTok and reportedly called the app as “major security risk for the American people”. Clyde Wallace, an official in the FBI's cyber division, told the hearing that the average citizen does not understand the wider implication of its use.
Wallace claimed that the app is controlled by a state-sponsored actor and the collected information can be used for many purposes. The United States has been apprehensive of technologies originating from China fearing surveillance and security risks.
Trump administration has already decided to restrict 5G operations of Huawei, another Chinese tech company, and has been pressurising other countries to do the same. In November, the United States had urged Canada not to use Huawei 5G technology citing security threats and said that it would jeopardise intelligence sharing between the two countries.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to allow Huawei into UK’s 5G network has angered ‘Five Eyes’ allies including the United States and Australia. After the UK’s decision, US President Donald Trump reportedly lambasted Johnson with ‘apoplectic’ rage during a heated telephonic conversation over Huawei issue.
According to a report, the surveillance technologies of Chinese tech giants, including Huawei technologies and ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company) are being used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the Uyghur and other minority populations in Xinjiang. Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), in its report Mapping more of China's tech giants: AI and surveillance, said that China’s surveillance state is not limited to Xinjiang since the Ministry of Public Security, through its two government plans, aim to comprehensively surveil China’s whole population by 2020 through a video camera network using facial recognition technology.
(With agency inputs)