A leader of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said he has asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores over data security concerns. Pictured here is the TikTok download page on an Apple iPhone on August 7, 2020.
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The wildly popular short video app is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which faced U.S. scrutiny under President Donald Trump.
Brendan Carr, one of the FCC’s commissioners, shared via Twitter a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai. The letter pointed to reports and other developments that made TikTok non-compliant with the two companies’ 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,” he said in the letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
Alphabet, Apple and TikTok did not immediately respond to CNBC requests for comment.
Carr’s letter, dated June 24 on FCC letterhead, said if the Apple and Alphabet do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they should provide statements to him by July 8.
The statements should explain “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,” he said.
Trump nominated Carr in 2018 to a five-year term with the FCC. The Senate confirmed in December that the commission’s chair, Jessica Rosenworcel, would stay on for another five-year term.
Carr’s letter cited a BuzzFeed News report from earlier in the month that said recordings of TikTok employee statements indicated engineers in China had access to U.S. data between September 2021 and January 2022.
The BuzzFeed report included a statement from a TikTok spokesperson.
It said: “We know we’re among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of US user data. That’s why we hire experts in their fields, continually work to validate our security standards, and bring in reputable, independent third parties to test our defenses.”
On June 17, the same day as the BuzzFeed report, TikTok announced it was routing all of U.S. user traffic to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, and was moving U.S. users’ private data from its own data centers in the U.S. and Singapore to Oracle cloud servers in the U.S.