Brendan Carr, FCC Commissioner, has urged Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores. Weeks ago, the agency’s senior Republican sent a letter to company CEOs Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai requesting that TikTok be banned “for failure to abide by” store policies.
Quoting a report that officials at TikTok holding company ByteDance in Beijing repeatedly retrieved sensitive data collected from US users, Carr claims the popular platform “is not just an app for sharing funny videos or memes.”
“That’s the sheep’s clothing,” he stated. “At its centre, TikTok is a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests vast amounts of personal and sensitive data,” such as search and browsing histories, keystroke patterns, and biometric identifiers.
Carr goes on to list more than a dozen pieces of “evidence or determinations regarding TikTok’s data practises,” such as a flaw in the Android operating system that allowed the social network to stockpile millions of MAC addresses, or the time the US Navy banned TikTok due to the video-sharing app’s emergence as a “cybersecurity threat.”
According to Carr, “it is clear 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.”
“However, it is also clear that TikTok’s pattern of conduct and misrepresentations regarding the unfettered access that persons in Beijing have to sensitive US user data […] puts it in violation of the policies that both of your companies require every app to adhere to in order to remain available on your app stores.”
TikTok announced plans to re-route all US user traffic through the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure on the same day details of the leaked TikTok audio were made public, before deleting private data from its own data centres in the US and Singapore.
However, the move doesn’t really address Carr’s concerns. According to Carr, the letter’s sole signatory, “TikTok’s statement […] says nothing about where the data can be accessed from.”
The FCC commissioner has given Apple and Google until July 8 to remove the popular platform from their online stores or explain their “conclusion that the unauthorized access of private and sensitive US user data by persons located in Beijing, combined with TikTok’s pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not violate any of your app store policies.”
The Trump administration declared via executive order in 2020 that both TikTok and WeChat posed national security risks, and moved to ban them unless ByteDance sold TikTok to a US company. Last year, President Biden reversed that Executive Order.