FCC Commissioner urges Google and Apple to ban TikTok

Brendan Carr references reports that say Beijing-based employees have access to US TikTok user data.

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"TikTok is not just another video app. That's the sheep’s clothing." That's what Brendan Carr wrote in his tweet along with a copy of the letter he sent Apple and Google, asking the companies to remove TikTok from their app stores. The agency's senior Republican commissioner references a recent BuzzFeed News report that examined leaked audio from 80 internal TikTok meetings. Based on those leaked audio recordings, China-based employees of TikTok parent company ByteDance had repeatedly accessed private information on users in the US.

One member of TikTok's Trust and Safety department reportedly said during a meeting in September 2021 that "everything is seen in China." A director said in another meeting that a Beijing-based engineer referred to as "Master Admin" has "access to everything." Just hours before BuzzFeed News published its report, TikTok announced that it migrated 100 percent of US user traffic to a new Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. It's part of the company's efforts to address concerns by US authorities about how it handles information from users in the country.

In his letter, though, Carr listed other reports showing "concerning evidence and determinations regarding TikTok's data practices" that include previous instances wherein researchers discovered that the app can circumvent Android and iOS safeguards to access users' sensitive data. He also cited TikTok's 2021 decision to pay $92 million to settle dozens of lawsuit, mostly from minors, accusing it of collecting their personal data without consent and selling it to advertisers.

Carr wrote:

"It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing's apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data."

He's giving Apple and Google until July 8th to explain why they aren't removing the app from their stores if they refuse to do so. That said, Carr was the letter's lone signee — it doesn't look like the other FCC Commissioners are involved. We've reached out to all parties to ask for their official statement on the issue.