The NSA claims the video-sharing app poses a cybersecurity threat © Getty Images / Piotr Powietrzynski
The head of the US National Security Agency’s cybersecurity unit described TikTok as China’s “Trojan horse” on Monday, claiming the video-sharing app is being used by Beijing to collect Americans’ data.
Rob Joyce urged Washington to start monitoring Chinese tech giant ByteDance, which owns TikTok, in a bid to avoid future security incidents.
“Why would you bring the Trojan horse inside the fortress? Why would you bring that capability into the US when the Chinese could manipulate the data we see to either include the things they want to present to our population – divisive material – or remove the things that paint them in a bad light, which they would not like to be exposed to the American people?” Joyce said at a conference in California.
TikTok CEO Shou Chew faced off with US lawmakers during a US House Committee hearing last week amid growing calls to ban the popular app. Lawmakers and cybersecurity experts have been expressing concern for months over ByteDance’s access to the personal information of TikTok’s 150 million monthly users in the US.
In November, FBI Director Chris Wray warned that the Chinese government could use the app to collect American users’ data for espionage and even take control of their mobile device software. Following his comments, the US federal government and 25 state administrations banned TikTok on the devices they use for work.
Both TikTok and Beijing have repeatedly denied the accusations. At the hearing, Chew said TikTok posed no bigger threat than rival social media platforms, including YouTube and Instagram, and stressed that his company had been securing users’ information more thoroughly than US-based firms because of the lack of trust from the US authorities.
Following the hearing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning reiterated that China “takes data privacy and security very seriously” and “has never asked and will never ask any company or individual to collect or provide data, information or intelligence located abroad against local laws.”
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