TikTok, the short-video app used by millions of mostly young Americans, can’t be trusted, due to its links to the Chinese regime and should be banned, cybersecurity experts warned.
Not to Be TrustedChinese security laws compel companies to cooperate with intelligence agencies when asked.
Casey Fleming, CEO of intelligence and security strategy firm BlackOps Partners, described TikTok’s claim that it could simply refuse to comply with such laws as “propaganda and gaslighting.”
U.S. companies operating in China are required to abide by local intelligence and security laws, he told The Epoch Times.
Fleming said Americans commonly make this mistake when viewing the Chinese regime: “We believe China is the same as the U.S. or the free world. We believe that their intentions and goals are the same.”
But this “could not be more wrong,” he said. The CCP has a handle on every aspect of society in China, and is engaged in a program of “unrestricted warfare” to supplant the United States to become the world’s sole superpower, according to Fleming.
“All technology coming out of China—either manufactured in China, created in China—is controlled by the CCP,” he said.
Mark Grabowski, an associate professor specializing in cyber law and digital ethics at Adelphi University, described TikTok as “Chinese government malware masquerading as a social media app.”
“The app collects way more data than it needs to,” Grabowski said in an email. “For example, it’s odd that TikTok does GPS [Global Positioning System] tracking since TikTok videos don’t display location information.”
Gary Miliefsky, a cybersecurity expert and publisher of Cyber Defense Magazine, agreed: “When I look at the features of TikTok, I would say that they don’t need all those permissions.”
“If you want to spy on a country, why send in a spy the old-fashioned way? Why not just send in a great app and make it go viral?” he told The Epoch Times.
Growing OppositionGovernments and organizations have started taking action against the app.
Wells Fargo recently instructed employees to remove TikTok, while the Democratic and Republican national committees have warned their staff against using the app.
Meanwhile, a U.S. panel is conducting a national security review of ByteDance’s $1 billion acquisition of social media app Musical.ly—which was rebranded to TikTok—in 2017.
Elements of activist hacking group Anonymous also recently turned its attention on the social media app. A Twitter account linked to the group posted on July 1: “Delete TikTok now; if you know someone that is using it, explain to them that it is essentially malware operated by the Chinese government running a massive spying operation.”
“From our understanding and our analysis it seems that TikTok does an excessive amount of tracking on its users, and that the data collected is partially if not fully stored on Chinese servers with the ISP [internet service provider] Alibaba,” the report said. Alibaba is a major internet company in China.
Feeding Big DataFleming said that personal data collected by TikTok and other Chinese apps is being “absorbed into big data and scraped with artificial intelligence by the CCP.” This massive pool of information can then be tapped into to carry out economic or political espionage, he said.
In recent years, the regime has stolen huge amounts of Americans’ personal data.
Grabowski said among the tens of millions of young TikTok users in America, many are targets that the CCP is keen to spy on or exploit for blackmail. These include “congressional staffers, Silicon Valley engineers, research lab assistants, and journalists,” he said.
“They potentially have access to sensitive government, industry and R&D information—and so does TikTok by extension,” Grabowski added.
Citing the Chinese regime’s actions over the past six months, including its coverup of the CCP virus outbreak, implementation of a draconian security law in Hong Kong, and growing aggression in the South China Sea and toward Taiwan, Fleming posed the question, “Do these actions speak to you of a trusted technology partner?”