A commissioner with the U.S. communications regulator is asking Apple and Google to consider banning TikTok from their app stores over data security concerns related to the Chinese-owned company.
Brendan Carr, a commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has written a letter to the CEOs of both companies, alerting them that the wildly popular video-sharing app does not comply with the requirements of their app store policies.
“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or meme. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” Carr said in the letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
“It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data.”
TikTok is not just another video app.<br>That’s the sheep’s clothing.<br><br>It harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing.<br><br>I’ve called on <a href=”https://twitter.com/Apple?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Apple</a> & <a href=”https://twitter.com/Google?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Google</a> to remove TikTok from their app stores for its pattern of surreptitious data practices. <a href=”https://t.co/Le01fBpNjn”>pic.twitter.com/Le01fBpNjn</a>
In the letter, Carr lists multiple instances of the company running afoul of various privacy and data security laws around the world. He’s asking Google and Apple to remove the ability to use the app on their phones.
If they refuse to do so by July 8, he’s demanding a response from them explaining “the basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok’s pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app store policies.”
The letter comes after U.S. news outlet Buzzfeed reported last week that data on U.S. users has been repeatedly accessed by entities in mainland China. TikTok subsequently announced that it plans “to delete U.S. users’ private data from our own data centres and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the U.S.” the company said.
It is not the first time that the company has come under fire in the U.S. for its links to the Chinese government. Former U.S. president Donald Trump railed repeatedly against the company, going as far as trying to ban the company via executive order.
India banned the company in 2020. TikTok briefly had talks with major tech giants Microsoft and Oracle about buying the company, in order to assuage those fears about data security. Those talks were fruitless, however.