US TikTok ban back on the cards as FCC commissioner asks Apple and Google to remove app from stores

US TikTok ban back on the cards as FCC commissioner asks Apple and Google to remove app from stores


Remember back in 2020 when Donald Trump wanted to ban TikTok in the US?

Citing data security concerns, then-President Trump issued two executive orders banning US citizens and businesses from undertaking any “transaction” with the ByteDance-owned platform, later issuing another order instructing ByteDance to divest its US TikTok business.

Yet by June last year, after President Joe Biden revoked Trump’s executive orders, a ban on TikTok in the States seemed an unlikely possibility.

TikTok’s fate in America now appears to be hanging in the balance again, however, after FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr this week called for the app’s removal from the Google Play and Apple App stores.

Carr tweeted an open letter on Tuesday (June 28) addressed 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 to be on the surface.”

He adds: “It is not just an app for sharing funny videos and memes. That’s the sheep’s clothing.”

The letter follows a BuzzFeed article published last week that claimed US user data had been accessed from China via the platform.

BuzzFeed reported that it reviewed “leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings”, which showed that “China-based employees of ByteDance have repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users”.

Citing BuzzFeed’s exposé, Carr writes in his letter that the article “only adds to an overwhelming body of evidence that TikTok presents a serious national security threat”.

“TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”

Brendan Carr, FCC

Elsewhere in the letter, Carr claims that “at its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data”.

He continues: “Indeed TikTok collects everything from search and browsing histories to keystroke patterns and biometric identifiers, including faceprints ­– which researchers have said might be used in unrelated facial recognition technology – and voiceprints.

“It collects location data as well as draught messages and metadata, plus it has collected the text, images and videos that are stored on the device’s clipboard.

“The list of personal and sensitive data collected goes on from there. This should come as no surprise, however. Within its own borders the PRC has developed some of the most invasive and omnipresent surveillance capabilities in the world to maintain authoritarian control.”

As reported by TechCrunch, TikTok announced on Friday (June 24) that it’s migrating the platform’s US user data to Oracle servers located in the US.

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 user data has been stored in servers in the US and yet those representations provided no protection against data being accessed from Beijing.

“Apple and Google have long claimed to operate their app stores in a manner that protects consumer privacy and safeguard their data. Therefore, I am requesting that you apply your App Store policy to TikTok and remove it from the App Store and the Google Play store for failing to comply with those policies.”

If Apple and Google decide not to remove TikTok from their app stores, Carr has requested responses to be sent to him by July 8, 2022.

Within those separate responses, Carr wants the tech giants to explain why “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 [Apple and Google’s] App Store policies”.Music Business Worldwide





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