Brendan Carr, a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission of the United States, called on Apple and Google to remove China-owned short video app TikTok from the App Store and Play Store due its ‘’pattern of surreptitious data practices.’’
The news comes a week after BuzzFeed’s article which claimed that TikTok engineers in China were able to access the data of US users until January this year.
“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. 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,” said Brendan Carr in his letter to Google and Apple CEOs.
“It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data”, Carr added.
Following BuzzFeed’s article, TikTok announced on Friday that it has moved 100% of US user data to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure located in the United States.
‘’We’re also making operational changes in line with this work – including the new department we recently established, with US-based leadership, to solely manage US user data for TikTok,’’ said the company. ‘’Together, these changes will enforce additional employee protections, provide more safeguards, and further minimize data transfer outside of the US.’’
First launched in September 2016 and has been downloaded over 2 billion times since then, TikTok has long been heavily criticized due to its data practices. In July 2020, the Indian government banned the short video app over security issues.
In August 2020, former US president Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban U.S. transactions with Chinese owners of TikTok and WeChat, requiring them to be sold to US companies. Later on, Joe Biden reversed the ban and ordered a new security review over their data-sharing practices.
Last year, a poll found that 48% of Americans said they worried TikTok would share their data with the Chinese government if requested.