United States (US) National Security Agency director Paul Nakasone today (March 7) expressed concern about Chinese-owned video app TikTok’s data collection and potential to facilitate broad influence operations.
In response to a lawmaker’s question about any concerns he has on the influence of TikTok on American children, Nakasone told a Senate hearing, “TikTok concerns me for a number of different reasons.”
Nakasone said his concerns include “the data that they have”.
“Secondly is the algorithm and the control of who has the algorithm,” Nakasone added.
Nakasone ended his comments by asserting that the TikTok platform could enable sweeping influence operations. Nakasone said his concern is not only the fact that TikTok can proactively influence users, but also its ability to “turn off the message,” and noted its large number of users.
The app is used by more than 100 million Americans.
The NSA, part of the Defense Department, is the agency responsible for US cryptographic and communications intelligence and security.
A TikTok representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
TikTok, a unit of China’s ByteDance, has come under increasing fire over fears that user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government, undermining Western security interests. TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew is due to appear before the US Congress on March 23.
A bipartisan group of 12 US senators is set to introduce legislation on Tuesday that would give Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo new powers to ban TikTok and other foreign-based technologies if they are found to pose national security threats.
The US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a powerful national security body, in 2020 unanimously recommended ByteDance divest TikTok because of fears that user data could be passed on to China’s government.