Industry experts fear TikTok security issues will linger under Biden deal: report

The Chinese company, which ironically is banned in China, has over 1 billion users.

Published: October 20, 2022 7:50pm

Updated: October 21, 2022 3:35pm

As the Biden administration mulls a prospective deal to retain TikTok in the United States, former national security officials and industry insiders worry the terms would leave the app's U.S. users open to data leaks, hacking and Chinese espionage.

"Unless they're going to rebuild the system in the United States at great expense, sooner or later, when something goes wrong, there's going to turn out to be only one engineer who knows how to fix it. And he or she is likely to be in China," national security lawyer Stewart Baker told Bloomberg of the deal.

Concerns over the app's harvesting of user data and its close relationship with the Chinese state have long worried American intelligence leaders. Former President Donald Trump previously sought to ban the app outright, though that ultimately did not occur. Details of the current proposal remain unknown, but it reportedly aims to protect American user data from Chinese actors and to restrict employees of TikTok and parent company ByteDance from accessing that information outside of the U.S.

Speaking to a group of industry experts, the outlet relayed skepticism that tightening restrictions on U.S. user data storage and access may not assuage U.S. intelligence concerns "no matter how strong a deal looks on paper."

The Chinese company, which ironically is banned in China, has over 1 billion users, per Bloomberg.

GETTR CEO Jason Miller also expressed skepticism that either the company or the administration could protect user data, barring substantive structural reforms at TikTok.

"Without a heavy-handed overhaul of the company, there is no way the Biden Administration can keep the personal information of U.S. citizens safe from the lurking data harvesters at TikTok," he told Just the News. "The research is piling up against TikTok, whether it be the Bloomberg reports, or the new damning material obtained by Forbes indicating that ByteDance planned to use the short video platform to find the specific geographical location of Americans, there’s no getting around the fact that TikTok is an overt menace to society."

"Having TikTok on your phone is equivalent to sending your personal data straight to the doorstep of the Chinese Communist Party headquarters," he continued, before asserting that his platform offered a more secure alternative. "That’s why GETTR’s Vision feature is providing the same quality entertainment as an alternative, without the risk of free-flowing personal data to Beijing."

At least one federal lawmaker remains skeptical that TikTok can truly separate American data from the overall system. "They've shown repeatedly the ability to create this surveillance state that ought to scare the dickens out of all of us," Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner said of China, per the outlet. "The burden of proof that you can really segregate American data, particularly if the code is still being written in China that would be a tough case to make."

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