Pull TikTok from app stores

A phone with the TikTok logo in front of American and Chinese flags.

Photo: Ascanio (Shutterstock)

TikTok’s promises to protect the data of its US users do not satisfy at least one member of the Federal Communications Commission. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said in a searing letter on Wednesday that the Chinese company had proven that it could not be trusted with the information users were giving it, and that it should band together and throw the sas.

Carr posted an open letter sent to Google and Apple on his Twitter account on Tuesday. In it, he called on companies to drop the TikTok app from their app stores. Carr cites several instances where the company is exceptionally data intensive. Most recently, BuzzFeed News reported that the Chinese government had gained access to US user data despite TikTok’s claims that it kept US user information on servers on US soil, away from Beijing’s prying eyes. Carr said in his letter that Apple and Google’s parent company Alphabet should remove TikTok from app stores or send him a letter by July 8 to explain.

TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance. In his letter, Carr said the extraordinarily popular The social app, which was downloaded 19 million times across Google and Apple platforms in the first quarter of this year alone, “poses an unacceptable risk to national security” due to its activities in data collection combined with that of China. Ever-expanding surveillance state.

The commissioner further asserted that the company’s alleged misuse of user data “puts it out of compliance” with the policies of the two companies’ app stores. In particular, he cites guidelines requiring apps to show how and where they will use personal information.

Neither Google nor Apple immediately responded to Gizmodo’s requests for comment. A TikTok spokesperson did not issue a statement regarding Carr’s letter, but instead said “We’d be happy to engage with lawmakers to set the record straight regarding BuzzFeed’s misleading information.” A spokesperson previously told Gizmodo “we aim to remove any doubt about the security of US users’ data.”

Carr, who was originally appointed to the FCC under former President Donald Trump, has already mocked against Silicon Valley giants like Twitter. Although he told Gizmodo in a phone interview that the letter does not represent any kind of “regulatory hook” from the FCC, rather it presents “a way forward to address this threat” by engaging the companies . Although he said that the assertion of this letter against TikTok has not been discussed in depth with other members of the commission, he hopes that they will look into the matter more closely because they have already reached a ” bipartisan consensus” on Chinese companies like Huawei.

The commissioner admitted he didn’t expect either company to censor the hugely popular TikTok app on their platforms because of the “deep ties in the chain’s ties.” supply that Apple and Google maintain in China”. Still, he hopes companies will look at the issue “neutrally through enforcement of their policies.”

FCC commissioner also cited 2020 reports TikTok got his hands on persistent user data circumventing Google’s warranties and has been swallow passwords and personal messages from iOS devices. TikTok agreed to pay $92 million in 2021 for collecting huge amounts of private information and user data and sending it to Chinese servers.

While the letter carries no actual legal threats, Carr’s words help draw attention to TikTok’s responses to lawmakers’ past concerns about how the app maker handles user data. donald trump tried to ban TikTok then tricked ByteDance into selling TikTok to an American partner.

The Commissioner claimed that there was “previous” for the two tech giants to remove applications that do not meet their standards, pointing out that the App Store and Android Play Store deleted apps to collect user data. Google previously said “All apps on Google Play must comply with our policies, regardless of developer. When we determine that an app violates these policies, we take appropriate action.”

However, none of these previously deleted apps on either platform was as big as TikTok.

The Buzzfeed report was based on several audio leaks from internal meetings. An employee would have declared that, indeed, “everything can be seen in China”. Another employee apparently told a colleague, “I get my instructions from the main office in Beijing. This is despite the company previously assuring congressional lawmakers that US offices would have the final say on what happens to Americans’ data. Almost as if anticipating the news from this original Buzzfeed report from June 17, TikTok announcement it had finished moving its US user data to US-based servers the same day.

Updated 6/29/22 1:20/1:50 PM ET: This post has been updated to include quotes from FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr and a TikTok spokesperson.

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