Due to data security concerns, a U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officer has asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores.
In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr pointed out that TikTok is non-compliant with the two companies’ app store policies. He also highlighted a BuzzFeed News report from June, which suggested that TikTok engineers based in China had access to U.S. data between September 2021 and January 2022.
“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,” Carr said in the letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
As a next step, Carr has asked the two tech giants to provide statements to him by July 8, if they fail to remove the app.
These statements should explain “the basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. 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,” he said.
Following BuzzFeed’s report, TikTok reportedly routed all U.S. user traffic to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and moved U.S. users’ data from its privately-owned data centers in the U.S. and Singapore to Oracle’s cloud servers in the U.S.
“Like many global companies, TikTok has engineering teams around the world. We employ access controls like encryption and security monitoring to secure user data, and the access approval process is overseen by our US-based security team,” a TikTok spokesperson told CNBC. “TikTok has consistently maintained that our engineers in locations outside of the U.S., including China, can be granted access to U.S. user data on an as-needed basis under those strict controls.”