An FCC commissioner calls on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores, saying it's a national security risk

·3 min read
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  • FCC commissioner Brendan Carr called on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores.

  • BuzzFeed News recently reported that US user data was accessed repeatedly in China.

  • TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has faced scrutiny from the US government before.

In the wake of a recent BuzzFeed News report that found that TikTok US user data was accessed repeatedly in China, a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission called on Apple and Google to remove the social-media platform from its app stores.

In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, FCC commissioner Brendan Carr wrote that TikTok "poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting combined with Beijing's apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data."

Carr argued that TikTok has not abided by Apple and Google's rules because of the "pattern of conduct and misrepresentations regarding the unfettered access that persons in Beijing have to sensitive US user data."

A Representative for Google declined to comment on Carr's letter when requested by Insider. Representatives for TikTok and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface," Carr wrote. "It's not just an app for sharing funny videos or memes. That's the sheep's clothing. At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data."

TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News reported, based on audio from over 80 internal TikTok meetings, that ByteDance engineers in China had access to US user data at least between September 2021 and January 2022.

Further, US-based TikTok employees did not know how to — and did not have permission to — access the data, and relied on staff in China to do so, according to BuzzFeed News.

In response to its story, a TikTok spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: "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 the same day that BuzzFeed News published its report, TikTok announced that "100% of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure," rather than being stored in its own data centers in the US and Singapore.

TikTok has been on the radar of both former President Trump and President Biden over privacy and national-security concerns.

The Trump administration set deadlines for TikTok to find a US buyer or face a ban in the US, but after potential deals with Microsoft and Oracle fell through, the deadlines passed without action by the US government.

The Biden Administration proposed new rules earlier this year that would give the US government more oversight over apps that could be a national-security risk, including TikTok.

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