US deputy attorney general: ‘I don’t use TikTok, and I would not advise anyone to do so’


US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco on Thursday announced a joint Justice Department and Commerce Department “strike force” aimed at preventing US adversaries from attaining American technology.

The Disruptive Technology Strike Force will use intelligence and data analytics, Monaco said in a speech at the policy institute Chatham House in London, to target bad actors around the world, to harden supply chains so that technology won’t be transferred to adversarial nations, and to quickly identify threats to critical American technology.

“Any company doing business in China for that matter is subject to Chinese national security laws, which require turning over data to the state, and there is a reason we need to be very concerned,” Monaco said.

“The bottom line is that China has been quite clear that they are trying to mold and put forward the use and norms around technology that advance their privileges and their interests,” the deputy attorney general added. “Their interests, which are not consistent with our own. Their interests, which are fueled by and directed toward an authoritarian approach to their government. And that is not consistent with ours.”

Because of those concerns, Monaco said: “I don’t use TikTok, and I would not advise anyone to do so.”

The social media app TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance, one of the most valuable private companies in China, has said its Chinese employees do have access to US user data but has denied that the company is influenced by Beijing.

The concern over Chinese technology has come to a head in Washington, particularly over TikTok. US officials have raised concerns that China could use its laws to pressure TikTok to hand over US user data that could be used for intelligence or disinformation purposes, prompting the federal government and more than half of US states to ban the app from government devices.

The new task force will work with global allies to pool intelligence and almost national security risks, Monaco said in London.

“Today, autocrats seek tactical advantage through the acquisition, use, and abuse of disruptive technology: innovations fueling the next generation of military and national security capabilities,” Monaco said, according to her prepared speech, specifically noting the threat posed by the Chinese government .

“They want to acquire technology by any means possible – not only to fuel surveillance and repression at home and abroad, but to gain strategic dominance,” she continued, saying that the Justice Department is “deploying all its tools to respond to nation states who would exploit technology to undermine our alliances, our national security and the rule of law.”

“Our goal is simple but essential,” Monaco said, “to strike back against adversaries trying to siphon our best technology.”

The new task force comes as the US conflict with China takes center stage in the public eye. Tensions between Washington and Beijing have heightened over the past several weeks after a suspected Chinese spy balloon floating in American airspace was shot down. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed his trip to China after the incident, and Beijing has in turn accused the US of “illegally” flying high-altitude balloons into its airspace more than 10 times since the start of last year.

Monaco said during her speech Thursday that China’s ability to collect and weaponize data abroad is deeply concerning – particularly the Chinese law that mandates any company doing business in China to make its data accessible to the government there.

“If a company operating in China collects your data, it is a good bet that the Chinese government is accessing it,” Monaco said.

She added that because of artificial intelligence and algorithms, China’s capability to monitor and use that data around the world is becoming increasingly sophisticated, saying, “The data obtained today could be used in new and frightening ways tomorrow.”

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