A U.S. Federal Communications commissioner is calling on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores over concerns that user data from the wildly popular social media platform is being accessed in China.
In a tweet Wednesday, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr shared a letter addressed to Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, the chief executives of Apple and Google parent Alphabet, respectively. He raised concerns over TikTok's Chinese ownership, saying that "it harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing."
Carr referenced a recent BuzzFeed News report that revealed that Beijing-based employees of TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, had repeatedly accessed private information on U.S. users, despite company assurances to the contrary.
"It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data being combined with Beijing's apparently unchecked access to that data," Carr wrote. "But it is clear that TikTok's pattern of conduct and misrepresentations regarding the unfettered access that persons in Beijing have to sensitive U.S. user data . . . puts it out of compliance with policies that both of your companies require every app to adhere to as a condition of remaining available on your app stores."
He said TikTok is far from just a funny video app for young people, calling that aspect of its business "sheep's clothing" meant to disguise the fact that it is a sophisticated tool for mass surveillance.
TikTok was a frequent target of regulators and White House officials during the Trump administration. ByteDance eventually struck a deal allowing TikTok to continue operating in the U.S., largely through a promise to store user data in the United States.