Exclusive: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul He said he “couldn’t think of a greater propaganda tool than TikTok” for China.
During an interview with Fox News Digital, McCall, R-Texas, warned that the video-sharing app is not just a “backdoor into your phone,” but also a national security threat to the United States.
“As long as he’s connected to ByteDance, which is offshore, they remain vulnerable,” McCall warned.
TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is headquartered in Beijing. China’s National Intelligence Law of 2017 requires companies registered in China, or with operations in China, to turn over information and data to Chinese intelligence agencies.
US officials and lawmakers have warned that the Chinese Communist Party could force the company to hand over US users’ data or expose them to publicity.
“Even if they say, we’re going to take all the data to the United States, well, the algorithms are still in Beijing, and as long as they have those algorithms, they can track that and monitor the content and push the information,” he said.
He added, “With half of America’s population as users, I can think of no greater advertising tool than that.”
TikTok has been facing an ongoing security review before Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) – An interagency group that assesses threats to US national security posed by foreign investments or transactions.
CFIUS has been looking at TikTok since 2019, and in 2020 it unanimously recommended that ByteDance divest from TikTok’s US operations, and has been threatening to ban TikTok until that happens.
However, TikTok has created the “Project Texas,” an initiative dedicated to addressing concerns about the national security of the United States. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified for hours last week before a House committee and explained parts of the initiative.
Project Texas builds a standalone version of the TikTok platform for the US that is isolated in an Oracle cloud environment in the US. It was developed with CFIUS and cost the company nearly $1.5 billion to implement.
Chew has argued that TikTok is not beholden to any country, though executives in the past have acknowledged that Chinese officials He had access to the Americans’ data Even when TikTok officials in the US didn’t.
However, TikTok claims the new initiative keeps user data in the US safe, telling Fox News Digital that the data is “run by Americans in America.”
“Rep. McCaul appears unaware of the specifics of the Texas project, the goal of which is to put US TikTok user data and systems out of the reach of any foreign government,” a TikTok spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “Today, all US protected new user data is stored exclusively in US infrastructure, and today all access to that environment is managed exclusively by TikTok US Data Security, a team led by Americans in America.”
However, several US lawmakers and officials have called for the app to be banned.
President Biden signed a sweeping $1.7 trillion spending bill last year that included a measure to ban TikTok from federal government agencies.
TikTok has also been banned for use on state-owned electronic devices in more than a dozen states — led by Republicans and Democrats — across the country.
FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees earlier this month about TikTok’s ability to “push narratives” and “divide Americans against each other.”
The British and New Zealand parliaments have banned the use of TikTok on government-issued phones. India has banned TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps, including the WeChat messaging service, for security and privacy reasons.
However, some lawmakers, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. , that legislation should be proposed to protect privacy and data.
People who support this alternative “need to open their eyes to what this app can do,” McCall warned.
“Your complete identity is on your phone — everything you do, all your transactions — everything is on that phone,” McCall said. “And the idea that we’re opening it up to the skies of a foreign country through an app, I can think of no greater infringement of your privacy.”