BEIJING (Xinhua) — The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in the United States has asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores due to data security concerns related to China.
The wildly popular short video app is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, which has come under scrutiny 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 companies’ app store policies.
“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.”
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 provide him with statements by July 8.
“The basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in Beijing, combined 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 cited an earlier this month BuzzFeed News report that said recordings of TikTok employee statements revealed engineers in China had access to US data between September 2021 and January 2022.
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A spokesperson for TikTok told CNBC, “Like many global companies, TikTok has engineering teams all over the world.” To secure user data, we use access controls such as encryption and security monitoring, and the access approval process is overseen by our US-based security team. TikTok has consistently maintained that our engineers in locations other than the United States, including China, can be granted as-needed access to U.S. user data under those strict controls.”
TikTok announced on June 17, the same day as the BuzzFeed report, 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 centers in the United States and Singapore to Oracle cloud servers in the United States.