Banning TikTok takes a big espionage tool away from China: US NSA


Washington (PTI) – China will lose “a big tool” of espionage and surveillance if America and some western European countries ban Chinese apps like TikTok as done by India, US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has said.

India last month banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok and UC Browser, saying they were prejudicial to the sovereignty, integrity and security of the country.

O’Brien told Fox News Radio in an interview that the Trump administration was “very seriously taking a look” at TikTok, WeChat and some other apps coming out of China.

“India has already banned those apps, as you know. And if they lose India and the United States, they lose some western European countries, that takes a big tool away from the espionage work or the surveillance work of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party),” he said in response to a question on the dangers posed by apps like TikTok.

“The kids who are using TikTok — and it can be a lot of fun — but there are a lot of other social media platforms they could use. TikTok is getting facial recognition on you,” O’Brien said.

“They are getting all of your personal, private data, your most intimate data. They are getting to know who your friends are, who your parents are. They can map all your relationships,” he added.

All the information is going straight to the massive supercomputers in the cloud in China, O’Brien said.

“So China is going to know everything about you. They are going to have biometrics on you. You ought to be very careful regarding who you give such personal information to,” he said.

The Trump administration, he said, is looking not just at TikTok but at WeChat and some other Chinese apps as well, because the Chinese are big consumers of America’s personal data.

“They will either try and get you to give it to them for free through WeChat or TikTok — if they cannot get it that way, they will steal it,” O’Brien said.

China, he said, has hacked into Marriott and stolen the personal data of hundreds of millions of people, including their passport numbers.

“They have hacked into Experian and other credit rating agencies to get most intimate credit details. They have hacked into Anthem healthcare so that they can get medical details.

“So this is not just an advertiser trying to find out what you are interested in searching for on Google so they can sell you a different brand of car, this is a country that is looking to get every bit of personal, private information they can, so they know everything about you,” O’Brien said.

He said there were social credit scores in China for people based on how compliant they are with the Communist party dictates.

“They are going to be able to put social credit scores together on all Americans and everyone in the world soon because of artificial intelligence and supercomputing,” he said.

“We need to make sure that does not happen,” the US National Security Advisor said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week said the US is “certainly looking” at banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok.

The American leadership’s remarks on the Chinese social media apps came amid growing tensions in bilateral ties with Beijing on a range of issues, including on the coronavirus outbreak and the controversial national security law imposed in Hong Kong.

The US has banned Huawei from their 5G networks over concerns of security and Washington has been pressuring other countries to restrict the operations of the Chinese telecom firm.

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