One of the Democratic Party’s most powerful lawmakers has issued a warning about the Chinese Communist Party-linked social media app TikTok.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has warned that President Donald Trump was right when he raised the alarm over the security risks regarding TikTok.
Warner made the comments during a visit to Australia on Tuesday.
“This is not something you would normally hear me say, but Donald Trump was right on TikTok years ago,” Warner said, The Sydney Moring Herald reported.
“If your country uses Huawei, if your kids are on TikTok, if your population uses WeChat as a social media platform, the ability for China to have undue influence is, I think, a much greater challenge and a much more immediate threat than any kind of actual, armed conflict.”
Warner, who is currently in Australia to engage with local intelligence chiefs, politicians, and business people, also warned about the technological domination that the Chinese regime is exerting over other countries, calling it scary.
“China having this kind of technology domination in a number of countries ought to scare the heck out of us because we’ve seen the kind of Orwellian surveillance state they’ve already created within China,” he said.
The United States is not the only country concerned about TikTok, however.
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has ordered cybersecurity authorities to investigate the social media giant’s data collection security.
O’Neil, who is also the cybersecurity minister, has called on Australians who use TikTok to be cautious of the app’s data collection.
“I’d say to Australians: if you’re using TikTok, think about what data of yours might be being collected, and know that we’re not always 100 percent confident of how that data’s being used,” O’Neil said on an Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) TV program on September 5.
“We do need to take precautions in this digital age.”
According to Digital 2022, a report released by internet data research company WE ARE SOCIAL, the international version of TikTok has 7.38 million adult users in Australia.
The app is second only to Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram.
The move comes after TikTok Australia acknowledged in July that its employees in China had access to Australian users’ data.
“Our security teams minimize the number of people who have access to data and limit it only to people who need that access in order to do their jobs,” Brent Thomas, TikTok’s Australian director of public policy, wrote in reply to the shadow minister for cybersecurity and countering foreign interference, James Paterson.
“We have policies and procedures that limit internal access to Australian user data by our employees, wherever they’re based, based on need.”
In 2020, President Donald Trump attempted to shut down social media apps TikTok and WeChat.
He cited security risks because of the app’s connections to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Trump’s executive actions centered on ByteDance, a Beijing-based firm that owns TikTok, and WeChat.
ByteDance is owned by Shenzhen-based Tencent Holdings.
However, Trump’s efforts to ban the apps were blocked by Democrat-backed federal court orders.
Currently, the Biden administration is conducting its own review of the Chinese-owned apps.
President Joe Biden signed his own executive order to direct the U.S. Department of Commerce to “evaluate these threats through rigorous, evidence-based analysis.”
The president advises they “should address any unacceptable or undue risks consistent with overall national security, foreign policy, and economic objectives, including the preservation and demonstration of America’s core values and fundamental freedoms.”
The Commerce Department, according to the White House, will be required to review TikTok, WeChat, and other apps that are developed, designed, controlled, or manufactured by entities linked to the CCP.
The order notes that such apps “may present an undue or unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States and the American people.”