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 reports and other developments that rendered TikTok in violation of the two firms’ app store standards.
“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.”
There were no comments available from Alphabet, Apple and TikTok.
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 statements 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.
Carr was appointed to the FCC by Trump in 2018 for a five-year term. Jessica Rosenworcel, the commission’s chair, was confirmed 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 statements revealed engineers in China had access to US data between September 2021 and January 2022.
A TikTok official was quoted in the BuzzFeed piece.
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.”
TikTok announced 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 centres in the United States and Singapore to Oracle cloud servers in the United States.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)