Whenever it appears that Bytedance-owned TikTok has overcome all legal troubles, a new challenge mushrooms every time. However, this time the trouble seems to be much more disastrous than ever before. Brendan Carr, FCC Commissioner, wants Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores. He strongly believes that the popular social video app poses a serious national security risk despite all the assurances given by the company.
“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or memes. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” reads a letter, dated June 24, 2022, written by Carr to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai dated June 24. And, to make the situation tricky for TikTok management, Carr also shared the letter on Twitter on Tuesday.
Carr, a Republican Commissioner, was nominated by Trump during his administration. He stated in the letter “TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance instrument that harvests extensive amount of personal and sensitive data of billions of users of the app”. He emphasized the fact that tech companies must act on priority to stop making the app available for download.
The letter highlights how TikTok failed to comply with the app store policies of Apple and Google. It lists TikTok’s practices that may have violated Apple’s and Google’s app store policies, which can be well-justified reasons the leading tech companies to act against the world’s most popular short video sharing app. To add weightage to his points, Carr also refers to a Buzzfeed News report that stated TikTok’s US data was accessed from China earlier in the month, contrary to previous claims.
The allegations, however, are not new to TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company ByteDance. TikTok has been constantly being attacked by legislators and regulators who have been raising concerns for years about the way the platform handles personal data. It has bought significant damage to the company already. The app has been banned from the devices of people associated with the US government or any of the government agencies. In 2020, in a bid to iron off all the privacy and security concerns, the Trump administration ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok to stay available for users in the US. However, The Biden administration didn’t force the selloff.
The impact of Trump administrative’s pressure on TikTok was so grave that many other countries also started considering banning TikTok. India banned TikTok in 2020 which even stays now. Few other countries also banned TikTok, albeit lifted later.
TikTok stated earlier this month that it has already moved the users’ data of US to Oracle storage locations in the US itself in order to allay concerns. But Carr doesn’t seem to be convinced about the move. He argued that the decision to save users’ data in the US did not address the concerns raised by his letter.
Carr expects that both tech giants must respond by July 8, explaining why TikTok is still available in their app stores.
Whatever decision Apple and Google will take, one thing is certain – TikTok will have to cover a long way to win the confidence of authorities.
What do you think about the FCC’s decision to put pressure on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores in order to safeguard billions of users’ personal data?