On November 15, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that the social media app TikTok poses "national security concerns". The director's statement comes less than a week after lawmakers introduced a bill to ban TikTok due to concerns that the app is "exposed to the influence" of the Chinese government.

According to director Christopher Wray, there's a "possibility that the Chinese government could use [TikTok] to control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations if they so choose, or to control software on millions of devices, which gives it an opportunity to potentially technically compromise personal devices."

U.S. lawmakers' concerns surround a Chinese national security law that requires companies operating within the country to share data with the Chinese government upon its request. According to Wray, companies operating in China have to "do whatever the government wants them to in terms of sharing information or serving as a tool of the Chinese government."

"And so that's plenty of reason by itself to be extremely concerned," he continued.

TikTok's owner ByteDance has consistently claimed that all data from U.S. devices is stored in the U.S., outside of the reach of the Communist Party. This summer, Buzzfeed News revealed that TikTok employees working in China have access to U.S. data, but ByteDance responded by saying that the Chinese government doesn't have access to private information on U.S. users.

Roughly a week before Buzzfeed's report, in a speech about the "common threats" to the U.S. and United Kingdom, Wray called China the "biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security."

TikTok has been under fire from the U.S. government since long before 2022. In 2020, during former President Donald Trump's administration, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United State (CFIUS) ordered ByteDance to divest from the social media app. Trump attempted to have TikTok shut down in the U.S. unless is spun off from its Chinese parent company.

President Joe Biden paused those orders, but the CFIUS continued to pursue some kind of agreement with ByteDance. Wray told the House that the FBI will have input on any agreements made by the CFIUS, and TikTok has confirmed that statement.

"As Director Wray specified in his remarks, the FBI's input is being considered as part of our ongoing negotiations with the U.S. Government," wrote a TikTok spokesperson. "While we can't comment on the specifics of those confidential discussions, we are confident that we are on a path to fully satisfy all reasonable U.S. national security concerns."

Despite TikTok's reported cooperation, lawmakers have been calling for a ban on the company for some time, and Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Gallagher introduced a bill on Nov. 10 to do just that.

According to Rubio and Gallagher, TikTok tracks users and collects their data even when using unrelated sites. With that data, the senators say that the Chinese government could create detailed profiles of U.S. citizens, opening the door for blackmail, espionage, and threats to national security.

The congressmen also discussed the potentially dangerous fact that many Americans get their news from TikTok.

"TikTok has already censored references to politically sensitive topics, including the treatment of workers in Xinjiang, China, and the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square," the lawmakers wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post. "It has temporarily blocked an American teenager who criticized the treatment of Uyghurs in China. In German videos about Chinese conduct toward Uyghurs, TikTok has modified subtitles for terms such as 'reeducation camp' and 'labor camp,' replacing words with asterisks."

Critics of the bill don't actually disagree with its premise: instead, experts like Aynne Kokas, the director of the East Asia Center at the University of Virginia, say that banning one company just isn't enough.

"When we look at all of these wide-ranging apps that are connected to Chinese firms, it's actually almost nonsensical to ban just one when we see platforms in areas like precision agriculture, communications, gaming, all connected to Chinese firms," Kokas told NPR. "So what's really important is to develop more robust data privacy regulations in the United States to protect users."