U.S. FCC Urges Apple, Google to Boot TikTok from App Stores

Brendan Carr, a commissioner at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), asked Apple and Google in a letter last week to kick TikTok off the App Store and Play Store, respectively, for accessing American users’ non-public data in China — reports CNBC.

Carr shared the letter via Twitter on Tuesday, saying TikTok should be removed for its “surreptitious data practices.” In his letter, Carr referenced recent reports demonstrating TikTok’s non-compliance with the tech giants’ 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,” Carr wrote in his letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”

The news comes less than two weeks after Buzzfeed News published a report citing leaked recordings of more than 80 internal meetings, which revealed employees of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, have repeatedly accessed data belonging to U.S.-based users.

“Everything is seen in China,” one employee was heard saying in audio from a September 2021 meeting. The recording of another meeting mentioned a Beijing-based engineer who is a “Master Admin” with “access to everything.”

Buzzfeed News‘ report was among those cited in the FCC commissioner’s letter. If Apple and Google do not boot TikTok, they are to provide statements to Carr by July 8.

He added that the statements should explain “the basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. 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.”

Back in 2020, former U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok in the country over data privacy concerns.

ByteDance has previously offered assurances that U.S. TikTok users’ data is stored locally and cannot be accessed from China. In fact, one TikTok executive testified during an October 2021 Senate hearing that a “world-renowned, US-based security team” controls who gets to access this data.

On the very day the Buzzfeed News report came out, TikTok announced it was routing all U.S. user traffic to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and was also migrating U.S. users’ private data from its own data centers in the U.S. and Singapore to Oracle cloud servers based wholly in the U.S.