A commissioner from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has voiced concerns surrounding TikTok and China-related data security.
Brendan Carr urged Apple and Google to remove the app from their stores in an open letter posted on Twitter.
He accused TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, of being a “sophisticated surveillance tool” which is responsible for the “surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data”.
Carr, who was nominated by former president Donald Trump for a five-year term with the FCC in 2018, shared the letter he wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai on Twitter. It cites a report that claims the app is not complaint with their policies.
“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,” he wrote.
“At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
\u201cTikTok is not just another video app.\nThat\u2019s the sheep\u2019s clothing.\n\nIt harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing.\n\nI\u2019ve called on @Apple & @Google to remove TikTok from their app stores for its pattern of surreptitious data practices.\u201d
The letter, which is dated on June 24, went on to say that if the app was not removed on Apple and Alphabet stores, the companies should provide statements by July 8.
He requested that the statements should make clear “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.”
Carr’s letter also cited a BuzzFeed News report which stated that recordings of TikTok employee statements suggested Chinese engineers had access to U.S. data between September last year and January.
Responding to the BuzzFeed report, a TikTok spokesperson told Indy100: "We will gladly engage with lawmakers to set the record straight regarding BuzzFeed's misleading reporting. 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. TikTok has consistently maintained that our engineers in locations outside of the US, including China, can be granted access to U.S. user data on an as-needed basis under those strict controls."
They added: "Recent reporting by BuzzFeed shows that TikTok is doing exactly what it said it would: addressing concerns around access to U.S. user data by employees outside the U.S. We've been clear and vocal about our work in this area as we seek to address both location and access to data. We're pleased that we now route 100% of U.S. user traffic to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, and we are continuing to work on additional safeguards on U.S. data for improved peace of mind for our community."
Indy100 has also reached out to Apple and Google for comment.
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