Fresh worry for TikTok, after FCC Commissioner writes to Apple and Google about removing the app from their respective App Stores
Social media app TikTok is not out of the woods in the United States, after a senior federal regulator sought its removal from the Apple and Google App Stores.
Commissioner Brendan Carr is the senior Republican on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and he has reportedly asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores over China-related data security concerns, CNBC reported.
TikTok of course is the wildly popular short video app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, and in December last year it (for the first time) replaced Google as the most-visited website in the US.
Its surge in popularity was believed to be a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as lockdowns left people indoors looking for entertainment.
TikTok is thought to have more than one billion active users around the world.
Indeed, it displaced Google for a few days at a time in February, March and June 2021, and then held the number one position since August 2021 – occasionally losing out to Google.
But TikTok has faced tough US scrutiny under former President Donald Trump, who sought to force the Chinese firm to be sold to a US owner, and threatened to ban it if this did not happen.
Negotiations began to sell the app’s US operations to an American third party, but the Biden administration dropped the ban threat in June last year.
Now FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr on Twitter posted a letter on Twitter he had sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.
The letter pointed to reports and other developments that made TikTok non-compliant with the two companies’ app store policies.
TikTok is not just another video app.
That’s the sheep’s clothing.
It harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing.
— Brendan Carr (@BrendanCarrFCC) June 28, 2022
“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,” Carr said in the letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
Alphabet, Apple and TikTok did not immediately respond to CNBC requests for comment.
Carr’s letter said if the Apple and Alphabet do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they should provide statements to him by 8 July.
The statements should explain “the basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive US user data by persons located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok’s pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app store policies,” he said.
Brendan Carr was nominated by Trump in 2018 to a five-year term with the FCC.