Do you remember in 2020 when Donald Trump wanted to ban TikTok in the United States?
Citing data security concerns, then-President Trump issued two executive orders prohibiting US citizens and businesses from engaging in any “transaction” with the ByteDance-owned platform, then issued another executive order. ordering ByteDance to divest its US TikTok business.
Yet in June last year, after President Joe Biden revoked Trump’s executive orders, a TikTok ban in the United States seemed an unlikely possibility.
The fate of TikTok in America now appears to be hanging in the balance again, however, after FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr this week called for the app to be removed from the Google Play and Apple App stores.
Carr tweeted an open letter Tuesday, June 28 to Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook requesting the removal of the app from their app stores.
Echoing the Trump administration’s data security concerns, Carr writes that “TikTok is not what it appears on the surface.”
He adds, “It’s not just an app for sharing funny videos and memes. It is the sheep’s clothing.
The letter follows a BuzzFeed article published last week that claimed US user data was accessed from China through the platform.
BuzzFeed reported that it had reviewed “leaked audio from over 80 internal TikTok meetings”, which showed that “China-based ByteDance employees repeatedly accessed non-public data about US TikTok users “.
Citing BuzzFeed’s expose, Carr writes in his letter that the article “only adds to an overwhelming body of evidence that TikTok poses a serious threat to national security.”
“TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests vast amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
Brendan Carr, CAF
Elsewhere in the letter, Carr claims that “at its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests vast amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
It continues: “Indeed, TikTok collects everything from search and browsing histories to keystroke patterns and biometric identifiers, including facial fingerprints – which researchers believe could be used in unrelated facial recognition technology. – and voice prints.
“It collects location data as well as message drafts and metadata, as well as text, images and videos stored in the device’s clipboard.
“The list of personal and sensitive data collected grows from there. This should come as no surprise, however. Within its own borders, the PRC has developed some of the world’s most invasive and pervasive surveillance capabilities to maintain authoritarian control.
As reported by Tech CrunchTikTok announced on Friday June 24 that it was migrating data from American users of the platform to Oracle servers located in the United States.
Commenting on the move in his letter, Carr writes that the migration “does not address the concerns raised here”.
He adds: “TikTok has long claimed that its US users’ data is stored on servers in the United States and yet these representations offer no protection against data access from Beijing.
“Apple and Google have long claimed to operate their app stores in a way that protects consumer privacy and protects consumer data. Therefore, I ask that you apply your App Store Policy to TikTok and remove it App Store and Google Play Store for violating these policies.
If Apple and Google decide not to remove TikTok from their app stores, Carr asked for responses to be sent to him by July 8, 2022.
In these separate responses, Carr wants the tech giants to explain why “the surreptitious access to US users’ private and sensitive data by individuals located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok’s pattern of misleading representations and conduct, is only going to against any of [Apple and Google’s] App Store Policies”.The music industry around the world