FCC Asks Google and Apple to Remove TikTok from App Stores


Tik Tok App in the Apple Store | Image by Shutterstock

A member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a request to Apple and Google on Tuesday, urging the tech giants to remove the China-based app TikTok from their app stores over concerns that the popular video app could send American data back to Beijing.

In a letter addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr cited a new report from BuzzFeed News about potential national security threats posed by TikTok.

The commissioner said that he believed “TikTok’s pattern of conduct and misrepresentations regarding the unfettered access that persons in Beijing have to sensitive U.S. user data” violated Apple and Google’s compliance standards and should be removed from their app stores.

“It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that data,” Carr asserted.

The BuzzFeed report analyzed leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings and determined that employees of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, had allegedly accessed nonpublic data about U.S. TikTok users.

Other public officials have previously raised concerns that TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, could expose its data to the Chinese government.

Former President Donald Trump signed two executive orders in 2020 aimed at ByteDance. The first barred American firms from working with the app, and the second demanded that ByteDance sell the app. Both executive orders were immediately challenged in court, leaving it up to the Biden administration to consider other measures to prevent the alleged sharing of American data with China.

In October 2021, TikTok executive Michael Beckerman testified before Congress that “TikTok actually collects less data than many of [its] peers.”

However, the BuzzFeed report claimed that ByteDance employees in Beijing had repeatedly accessed sensitive data that TikTok collected from Americans who downloaded the app.

“Everything is seen in China,” a TikTok’s Trust and Safety department member declared in meeting the previous September, according to BuzzFeed.

TikTok has maintained it is taking steps to keep employees in China from inappropriately gaining access to its data, claiming it routes all data from its U.S. users through servers controlled by the American cloud computing company Oracle.

“For more than a year, we’ve been working with Oracle on several measures as part of our commercial relationship to better safeguard our app, systems, and the security of U.S. user data,” said Albert Calamug of TikTok’s public policy division on June 17.

In his letter, Carr said he did not believe that fully addresses the issue.

“TikTok has long claimed that its U.S. user data has been stored on servers in the U.S., and yet those representations provided no protection against the data being accessed from Beijing,” he wrote. “Indeed, TikTok’s statement that ‘100 percent of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle’ says nothing about where that data can be accessed from.”

TikTok additionally noted that it is pursuing other measures to keep U.S. data safe.

“As we’ve publicly stated, we’ve brought in world class internal and external security experts to help us strengthen our data security efforts,” the company said in a statement obtained by The New York Times.

One of these efforts, TikTok added, was creating a U.S.-led unit that would “provide a greater level of focus and governance” on American data security.

Other lawmakers are also pushing for TikTok to be held accountable. After the BuzzFeed report was released, U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Tom Cotton wrote a letter on June 23 to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asking the Biden administration to prioritize investigating “the national security and privacy risks posed by TikTok.” Four other senators signed the letter.

TikTok and the FCC did not immediately respond to a request by The Dallas Express for comment.

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