US regulator asks Google and Apple to drop TikTok
The US government wants the tech world to ban TikTok following media claims that its American branch lied about not sending personal data to China. The app should be removed from the app stores operated by Google and Apple, Brendan Carr – one of the top officials in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – wrote to the companies.
“Numerous provisions of Apple’s & Google’s policies are relevant to TikTok's pattern of surreptitious data harvesting – a pattern that runs contrary to its public representations,” the FCC commissioner said on Tuesday on Twitter. “And there’s plenty of precedent for holding TikTok accountable by booting it from these app stores.”
Carr shared a complaint that he sent last week to Google and Apple, requesting the removal of TikTok. The stores controlled by the two US-based companies are the primary sources – the only legal source, in Apple’s case – of new apps for device users. In the letter, he called TikTok a “sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
The commissioner cited a June 17 report by BuzzFeed, which alleged that, despite public assurances to the contrary, the US operator of the popular service hasn't protected private data from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. The accusations were based on a recording of internal discussions that the outlet claimed to have obtained.
Carr told Google and Apple that the story “only adds to an overwhelming body of evidence that TikTok poses a serious national security threat.” He said there was a bipartisan suspicion about the app in Congress as he called on private companies to expel the service.
In 2020, former President Donald Trump's government threatened to ban TikTok, citing concerns over access to the data of Americans it could be giving to Beijing. The company said it had never shared private data with the Chinese government and would not do so. Carr, one of the four currently serving FCC commissioners, and was nominated by Trump for a five-year term in 2018.
TikTok has downplayed the BuzzFeed report, saying it had revealed the access of engineers to certain data, which was not an uncommon practice among people in the tech world. It also said it was moving the information to Oracle servers to boost its safety.
“Our goal is to minimize data access across regions so that, for example, employees in the [Asia Pacific] region, including China, would have very minimal access to user data from the EU and US,” chief information security officer Roland Cloutier said in a blog post.