ONE FCC official has proposed that TikTok get banned from Apple and Android’s app stores over China-related data security concerns.
On Tuesday, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok for “its pattern of surreptitious data practices.”
Carr shared the contents of the letter in a Tweet, where he added that “[TikTok] harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show is being accessed in Beijing.”
The official letter, which was penned to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, cites reports that claim TikTok is non-compliant with their app stores’ policies.
“As you know TikTok is an app that is available to millions of Americans through your app stores, and it collects vast troves of sensitive data about those US users,” Carr said.
TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance — an organization that is “beholden to the Communist Party of China and required by the Chinese law to comply with PRC’s surveillance demands,” per Carr.
The Commissioner noted that TikTok is guilty of collating data from its users, including search and browsing histories, keystroke patterns, biometric identifiers, and draft messages.
“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. 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.”
Carr’s remarks and letter come shortly after BuzzFeed published a report that claims US user data was repeatedly accessed by China.
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Buzzfeed journalists gained access to leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings.
Their investigation found 14 statements from nine different TikTok employees which indicated that engineers in China had access to US data between September 2021 and January 2022 – at least.
“Everything is seen in China,” a member of TikTok’s Trust and Safety department said in a September 2021 meeting, per Buzzfeed.
Meanwhile, a director referred to one Beijing-based engineer as a “Master Admin” with “access to everything.”
In response, a TikTok spokesperson told Buzzfeed: “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.”
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For years, US officials have expressed concern over TikTok, its data collation, and its links to China’s government.
The Sun has reached out to TikTok for comment but has not heard back.