The social media app TikTok is under fire yet again from U.S. officials, this time at the FCC, after another user data breach in China.
The Chinese firm that owns TikTok, ByteDance, had access to private data on American TikTok users earlier this month, according to BuzzFeed. Now, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has contacted Apple and Google executives urging them to remove the TikTok app from their app stores.
In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Carr expresses his concern about the social media app that is popular in the United States, particularly among teens and 20-somethings, posing a national security risk.
TikTok, according to Carr, is “much more than simply an app for sharing amusing videos or memes.” That’s the sheepskin coat. “TikTok serves as a sophisticated surveillance tool that gathers substantial quantities of personal and sensitive data at its core,” he added.
According to the Buzzfeed story, audio recordings from ByteDance dating back to September 2021 and up to January 2022 revealed that 9 employees in China had openly talked about obtaining sensitive American user data, including birth dates and phone numbers.
On a recording from September last year, a ByteDance staff member in TikTok’s Trust and Safety department states, “Everything is watched in China.”
In his letter, Carr claims that ByteDance is “under the control of the Communist Party of China,” and as a result, it must comply with Chinese surveillance demands.
Carr is only the latest to express concern about TikTok. Politicians from both sides of the aisle — including President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump, Sens. Tom Cotton and Chuck Schumer, and others — have expressed concerns about TikTok.
Carr adds, “The worries about TikTok are shared across the political spectrum.”
TikTok has responded to some of these worries recently. On the same day that BuzzFeed’s story was published, TikTok made a public statement claiming “100 percent” of user traffic is being directed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
According to Carr, routing US user traffic through Oracle, an American firm based in Austin, will not solve the issue because data may still be accessed outside of the U.S. which includes Beijing.
Because of TikTok’s history of serious security flaws, and Apple’s and Google’s duty to follow their own security requirements and protocols, Carr concludes the letter by asking Apple and Google to remove the software from their platforms.