The Federal Communications Commission’s Brendan Carr today told Apple Inc. and Google LLC that they should remove the TikTok from their app stores, warning that there are security concerns with the app’s parent company, ByteDance Ltd.
Carr, who’s a Republican commissioner, said he believes the Chinese company is violating the standards of Apple and Google by scraping data from its American users and sending it back to China. “TikTok’s pattern of conduct and misrepresentations regarding the unfettered access that persons in Beijing have to sensitive U.S. user data,” he said.
This is not the first we’ve heard such a statement. Back in 2019, U.S. intelligence officials warned that TikTok posed a national security threat. They said the company could be sending data back to China and may also undertake foreign influence campaigns. TikTok denied any wrongdoing, saying it had in place “robust cybersecurity policies, and data privacy and security practices.”
Carr doesn’t think so. In a letter to the two tech giants, he claimed that ByteDance is “beholden” to the Chinese Communist Party, and the law of the country demands that it work closely with the Chinese intelligence community. “TikTok is not just another video app,” he said. “That’s the sheep’s clothing.”
His comments may not make a difference anyway since the FCC doesn’t have a say in regulating what appears in app stores. Also, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who sets the agenda for the FCC, is a Democrat. Apple and Google have yet to comment on the matter.
It seems TikTok’s life in the U.S. is always going to be one filled with the occasional battle. In 2020, the company sued the Trump administration after the former president threatened to ban the app from the U.S. if it wasn’t sold off to an American company.
That didn’t work out for Trump, and under President Biden, the app hasn’t come under too much scrutiny. TikTok now has more than 80 million users in the U.S., a fact that has companies such as Meta Platforms Inc. developing very similar apps.
“We employ access controls like encryption and security monitoring to secure user data, and the access approval process is overseen by our U.S.-based security team,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement in response to the letter. “TikTok has consistently maintained that our engineers in locations outside of the U.S., including China, can be granted access to U.S. user data on an as-needed basis under those strict controls.”