A former chief of Britain's security service, MI6, warned top politicians in Britain that if their children use the Chinese social media app Tik Tok, the communist regime may have a backdoor into their private data.
Nigel Inkster, the former director of operations and intelligence for the British Secret Intelligence Service, said that TikTok could serve as an entry point to access the data prominent figures in the United Kingdom if family members are on the same WiFi network.
"Where the Chinese intelligence services are very strong is in identifying non-obvious entry points to certain targets," Mr Inkster told The Telegraph.
"They have shown a lot of skill in this regard: attacking a target from a variety of different directions, none of them obviously pointing to the target, but that will bring them closer to it," Inkster said.
"This [TikTok being used as an entry point] is something I am sure people are having to think about," he added.
The former MI6 cheif said that short of a ban on the Chinese-owned short-form video app, it will be difficult to prevent family members of government ministers and politicians from downloading TikTok.
"I don't underestimate the difficulty of doing that with families. Individuals employed by the Government, that is easy enough to do," Inkster said.
"You can say ‘Thou Shalt Not' as a condition of employment, but extending that to families may be problematic and not that realistic," he explained.
A Government spokesman said: "All departments have robust processes in place to ensure communication around Government business is secure."
Last week, the Trump administration issued two executive orders threatening to ban TikTok alongside the Chinese messaging app WeChat within the United States within 45 days. The executive orders say that the data collected by the companies could be used in espionage against the U.S., as well as providing a platform for communist propaganda in the West.
"This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans' personal and proprietary information - potentially allowing China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, build Dossiers of personal information for blackmail and conduct espionage," the TikTok executive order said.
The warnings from the U.S. government and the former MI6 head have apparently gone unheard in Number 10 Downing Street, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reportedly backed the idea of TikTok establishing its global headquarters in London.
The app's parent company, ByteDance, has hired the Property agent JLL to find a rental space for the London HQ, which will be required to be at least 30,000 square feet in order to house some 1,000 TikTok employees, according to The Telegraph.
In response to the warnings from the former intelligence chief, a spokesman for the company said: "TikTok does not operate in China and is not even available there."
"Our UK user data is currently stored in the US and Singapore and will soon be transferred to a new data centre in Ireland. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked."
Despite TikTok's claims, as a Chinese-owned company they are required by Chinese law to "support, assist, and cooperate" intelligence services in the communist state when commanded.
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