TikTok faces growing national security concerns: “It’s not just the collection or theft of that data”

With over 1 billion monthly users worldwide, TikTok has moved many users with a platform that seems to know who they are. But critics say TikTok probably knows too much.

The popular social media app tracks its users’ likes, dislikes and personal information, including email addresses, phone numbers and WiFi networks.

Gizmodo senior technology reporter Thomas Germain shows CBS News how TikTok harvests extensive user data, including access to users’ contacts.

“They’re looking through all my contacts to see if those people are on TikTok, but who knows what they’re doing with it,” Jermaine said. “They’re definitely keeping track of everything that’s out there, whether those people are on TikTok or not. And interestingly, my friends didn’t give consent for their phone numbers and emails to be uploaded to TikTok.”

While other apps also take similar data, TikTok’s parent company is Chinese-owned ByteDance, and US officials have repeatedly warned that the Chinese government could force the company to share data collected on its users. .

“We have national security concerns,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in November. “They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users.”

growing number of states and the US military ban on use of tiktok Because of those apprehensions on the equipment issued by the government.

John Carlin, who previously ran the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said the data collected could be very valuable.

“We think of data as — people have called it the new oil,” Carlin said.

He worries that Chinese officials could also influence the videos shown to Americans.

“It’s not just the collection or theft of that data,” Carlin said. “It’s also manipulating what it is that you see. And the question is for national security professionals, do we want China to determine what it is that we see here in America?”

Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the US, said the concern is overblown and “makes for good politics.” He added that TikTok collects less data than other social media apps and is also working to move user data to servers in the US that are out of reach of China.

“It would be the firewall,” Beckerman said. “Nothing is bulletproof, but for the concerns being raised over it, yes, it is bulletproof.”

The Biden administration is investigating TikTok’s plan to keep its data in the US as part of a wider years-long review of whether the company’s ties to China pose a national security threat. It is not clear when the investigation will end.

More investigation is on the way. A top Republican House aide told CBS News that investigating TikTok’s links to China will be a priority as the GOP takes control of the House in January.

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