Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member Brendan Carr has renewed his demands that Apple and Google remove TikTok from their app stores. Carr’s concerns focus on national security concerns about TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance.
The commissioner cites new security reports indicating the social media platform that is wildly popular with young Americans is harvesting “swaths of sensitive data.” That data in turn is accessible by the Beijing government working under the direction of the Chinese Communist Party.
Carr said in a letter to Apple and Google that TikTok is “not what it appears to be on the surface,” describing its use for sharing videos as the “sheep’s clothing.” He said that the true purpose of the app is to act as a “sophisticated surveillance tool” being wielded on behalf of the CCP.
He cited a report detailing leaked recordings revealing that ByteDance executives operating in Beijing have routinely accessed data collected from American TikTok users.
The app reportedly collects search and browser histories, keystroke patterns, and biometric security data including faceprints and voiceprints. It also captures location data, messages, text, and images stored on mobile device clipboards.
The Apple App Store and the Google Play Store have been the conduits for almost 19 million downloads of the TikTok app in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2022 alone.
Carr also noted ByteDance’s record of misrepresentations made about its collection of U.S. user data as evidence that it fails to meet the requirements posted by Apple and Google for placing apps in their stores.
Carr demanded a response from both companies by July 8 in the event they had not yet removed the TikTok app from their stores. In that event, he called for an explanation of how ByteDance’s conduct “does not run afoul of any of your app store policies.”
After Carr sent his open letter, a group of nine Senate Republicans wrote last week to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew with a list of questions about the report and citing concerns about previous misrepresentations the company has made to the Senate Commerce Committee.
Chew sent a written response to the senators claiming that the report “contains allegations and insinuations that are incorrect and are not supported by facts.”
Chew cited “Project Texas” as the company’s internal plan for restricting Chinese software engineers from accessing U.S. user data.
While U.S. regulators and lawmakers continue to see millions upon millions of Americans download the Chinese social media app, ByteDance is claiming that when “Project Texas” is completed, a new team of U.S.-based tech workers will be in control of American systems and user data. How that will restrict Beijing from having access is as yet unexplained.