A US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) leader has called for Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores over China-related data security concerns.
The short-form video platform is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance and has already faced scrutiny under Donald Trump’s administration.
FCC commissioner Brendan Carr shared a letter addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai on Twitter.
The letter documented reports and other developments that made TikTok non-compliant with 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,” the letter read.
“At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
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
Carr said that if both companies do not remove the app from their app stores, they should provide statements to him explaining their reasoning by 8 July.
He said that the companies’ statements must 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.”
A BuzzFeed News report from earlier this month was cited in Carr’s letter. The reported claimed that recordings of TikTok employee statements indicated engineers in China had access to US data between September 2021 and January 2022.
A TikTok spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “We know we’re among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of US user data.
“That’s why we hire experts in their fields, continually work to validate our security standards, and bring in reputable, independent third parties to test our defenses.”