As someone who covered the TikTok saga through the waning days of the Trump presidency, I have to confess I did have a point of skepticism with the assumption by the previous president and his people who a short-video app popular with teenagers was actually a stealth tool utilized by the Communist Chinese to spy on Americans.
Brendan Carr, a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission, hit me with some revelations that appear to substantiate the worst fears of Trump and his national security team in regards to the app and the way it’s getting used by China to collect data on Americans to spy on us.
In 2020, Trump desired to ban TikTok, so after all President Biden reversed course. But when Sleepy Joe cares in regards to the Chinese threat to our national security, he should put aside his Trump animus and hearken to what Carr has to say in regards to the possible dangers posed by something that may very well be sucking the social media life out of unsuspecting people for nefarious purposes.
Again, I used to be a skeptic. What could the Chinese do with information gleaned from dance videos and comedy sketches? The primary point Carr made to me is that TikTok isn’t just an extraordinary app — it’s the most well-liked on this planet; the TikTok logo has turn into omnipresent at American sporting events, from Yankees games to MSG during Stanley Cup playoffs.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr warned about China using TikTok as a strategy to gain Americans’ information.Getty Images
With 1 billion energetic monthly users, it collects numerous data. Like all of our “free” social media platforms, TikTok siphons swaths of data from users to make cash, which is why I get so many online targeted ads based on my search history.
Carr, appointed by Trump to the FCC, lays out a reasonably compelling case that unlike US big tech firms, profits aren’t the one motivating consider TikTok’s business model.
All this user data — from searches to downloads to anything touched by the app — feed the Chinese Communist surveillance state, he believes, which desires to supplant our dominance as a world economic leader.
Answering to the CCP
You see, TikTok is owned by a Chinese holding company called ByteDance. Unlike executives and board members at US tech giants, its management priority isn’t serving the interests of shareholders. It answers to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and, ultimately, its power-hungry supreme leader, Xi Jinping.
Little background on China Inc.: It doesn’t matter what number of US investors are involved in Chinese corporations (ByteDance has significant US private equity and VC investments). The commissars really run the show.
A Good example is Alibaba, China’s equivalent of Amazon. Company founder Jack Ma attracted significant US investor interest for a 2014 IPO that appeared on the Recent York Stock Exchange in probably the most sought-after listings in recent history.
But for all of the US fanfare, the commissars never loosened their grip on Alibaba or Ma himself. IPO disclosure documents stated as much, warning that the Chinese government “exercises significant control over China’s economic growth . . . providing preferential treatment to particular industries or corporations.”
Following the general public offering, Ma went on to turn into certainly one of the world’s richest people, value about $26 billion, a philanthropist and activist who had a bent of publicly saying stuff that pissed off China’s authoritarian rulers.
He also suffered the same fate as others who crossed their business partners within the politburo and suddenly and without explanation disappeared; he became the topic of scorn and mock in China’s state-run media, and a goal of China’s regulators.
TikTok has over a billion energetic users on the app.SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett
Perhaps he ended up in certainly one of the country’s infamous gulags or possibly he was re-educated under less onerous conditions. Either way, now that Ma has been spotted out and about, he just keeps his mouth shut.
Again, ByteDance shouldn’t be a public company so there isn’t any regulatory mandate to offer specific legal disclosures in regards to the commissars’ role in its operations.
Based on public statements by TikTok officials, that role would seem minimal. Its servers were secure. Team Biden appears to have bought ByteDance’s explanation.
That hasn’t assuaged many GOPers within the national security and telecom apparatus. Carr, a long-time telecom lawyer and policy wonk, kept in search of ways to rein in the corporate. His worst fears received some confirmation recently with a report from BuzzFeed News that obtained recordings showing how China is allegedly throughout TikTok’s US user-information.
“Every little thing is seen in China,” one TikTok official explained.
Oddly, TikTok really didn’t deny the report. A spokeswoman blandly stated: “… we hire experts of their fields, continually work to validate our security standards, and produce in reputable, independent third parties to check our defenses.”
Carr wants President Biden to take motion on the potential data issues.AP Photo/Evan Vucci
The spokeswoman didn’t return my call and email for comment.
Carr has written Google and Apple, demanding they stop carrying TikTok of their apps stores. If the GOP regains control of Congress, hearings are likely.
Within the meantime, Carr also wants Sleepy Joe to step in and stop what he believes is China’s blatant data theft before it’s too late — even when that may require our famously obtuse commander in chief to get up and smell the information breaches.