A Federal Communications Commission member is pushing Apple and Google to remove TikTok from the tech titans’ app stores over data privacy concerns about the video-based app’s Chinese ownership.
Brendan Carr, a Republican commissioner, wrote to Apple and Google’s CEOs to request they kick TikTok out following fresh allegations that the platform’s China-based parent company accessed U.S. users’ data.
“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface,” Mr. Carr said in the letter. “It is 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.”
Mr. Carr expressed concerns that such personal data is gathered by the Chinese Communist Party. Earlier this month, revelations that engineers in China had access to U.S. data between September 2021 and January 2022 became public through the leaked audio of more than 80 internal TikTok meetings obtained by Buzzfeed.
“It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data,” Mr. Carr wrote in the letter this week. “But it is also clear that TikTok’s pattern of conduct and misrepresentations regarding the unfettered access that persons in Beijing have to sensitive U.S. user data — just some of which is detailed below — puts it out of compliance with the policies that both of your companies require every app to adhere to as a condition of remaining available on your app stores.”
The U.S. government’s approach to TikTok changed with the shift from former President Donald Trump to President Biden. Mr. Biden revoked Mr. Trump’s executive order to block transactions with ByteDance, TikTok’s owner, and replaced it with an executive order of his own last year.
The 2021 executive order created a framework for evaluating risk on connected software applications and it has not yet yielded a ban of TikTok.
TikTok remains available for download via Apple and Google’s app stores on Thursday, and it appeared as the “top free” app for download in both stores.
TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr. Carr’s letter.
Following the leak of the audio earlier this month, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said the company brought in external experts to strengthen its data security.
The company also announced it has partnered with American tech company Oracle to establish data management protocols, which TikTok said Oracle will audit.