On Tuesday, the leader of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission urged Apple and Google to remove TikTok from app stores over China-related data security concerns.
Brendan Carr, one of the FCC’s commissioners, shared a letter via Twitter on Tuesday, addressed to Tim Cook of Apple and Sundar Pichai of Alphabet Inc. (the parent company of Google) asking them to remove TikTok from their app stores for its “pattern of surreptitious data practices.”
“Tiktok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance – an organization that is beholden to the Communist Party of China and required by Chinese Law to comply with PRC’s surveillance demands,” reads the letter, dated June 24.
The commissioner said he believed that “TikTok’s pattern of conduct and misrepresentations regarding the unfettered access that persons in Beijing have to sensitive U.S. user data" violated Apple’s and Google’s standards.
According to the letter, TikTok collects everything from search histories to “keystroke patterns and biometric identifiers, including faceprints, and voiceprints,” as well as collecting location data, text, images and videos stored on the device’s clipboard.
“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface,” reads the letter. “It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or memes. That’s the sheep’s clothing. At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
Chinese company ByteDance, which owns TikTok, faced scrutiny under former President Donald Trump, who said that the app may be “used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party,” back in August of 2020.
Tiktok has consistently denied those allegations.
Earlier this month, TikTok announced that it had started routing American users’ data to U.S.-based servers owned by Oracle.
But, according to the commissioner, this does not provide any protection against data being accessed in Beijing. “It says nothing about where that data can be accessed from,” wrote Carr.
Earlier this month, Buzzfeed News published a report that detailed leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings. The audio exposed that TikTok employees based in China had “repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about U.S. TikTok users” from September 2021 to January 2022.
Carr has asked Alphabet and Apple to respond to his request to remove Tiktok from their app stores by July 8.
Spectrum News has reached out to TikTok for comment.