The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in the United States has requested Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores due to data security issues relating to China.
The enormously popular short video app is owned by the Chinese corporation ByteDance, which has come under suspicion in the United States under President Donald Trump.
Brendan Carr, one of the FCC’s commissioners, posted a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai on Twitter. The letter cited stories and other events that rendered TikTok in violation of the two firms’ app store standards.
“TikTok is not what it appears to be at first glance.” It is more than just a platform for sharing amusing videos or memes. “That’s the wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he said in the letter. “At its heart, TikTok is a clever surveillance tool that collects vast quantities of personal and sensitive data.”
CNBC’s inquiries for comment were not immediately responded to by Alphabet [NASDAQ: GOOG], Apple [NASDAQ: AAPL], or TikTok.
TikTok is not just another video app.
That’s the sheep’s clothing.
It harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing.
— Brendan Carr (@BrendanCarrFCC) June 28, 2022
Carr’s letter, dated June 24 and printed on FCC letterhead, stated that if Apple and Alphabet do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they must furnish him with comments by July 8.
The disclosures should explain “the rationale for your company’s decision that the unauthorized access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by people in Beijing, along with TikTok’s pattern of false claims and conduct, does not violate any of your app store regulations,” he wrote.
Carr was appointed to the FCC by Trump in 2018 for a five-year term. Jessica Rosenworcel, the commission’s chair, was approved by the Senate in December to serve another five-year term.
Carr’s letter highlighted an earlier this month BuzzFeed News article that suggested recordings of TikTok staff remarks revealed engineers in China had access to US data between September 2021 and January 2022.
A TikTok official was quoted in the BuzzFeed piece.
“We realize we’re among the most scrutinized platforms in terms of security, and we seek to erase any question about the protection of US user data,” it stated. That is why we recruit subject matter experts, work constantly to confirm our security standards, and bring in trustworthy, independent third parties to test our defenses.”
TikTok said on June 17, the same day as the BuzzFeed revelation, that it was routing all U.S. user traffic to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and was migrating U.S. users’ private data from its own data centers in the United States and Singapore to Oracle cloud servers in the United States.