U.S. Communications Regulator Wants Apple And Google To Ban TikTok From Their App Stores


In many ways, the U.S. and China aren't the best of friends. In one way or another, each side will continue to see and blame the other for doing what they're not supposed to do.

And the Chinese-based platform TikTok has never been the U.S. government's best interest.

Ever since Donald Trump proposed the ban on the app in the U.S., which is something that ultimately didn't happen, the U.S government has put a greater attention to this particular platform.

The government feared that in one way or another, user data would be at risk of leaking.

And that fear was apparently true, when it was realized that leaked recordings from over 80 internal TikTok meetings suggest that TikTok data from users in the U.S. has been allegedly transferred to China and accessed by the social media app’s parent company ByteDance.

This is why a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission called on Apple and Google to remove the social-media platform from its app stores.

TikTok, U.S.-China

In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, FCC commissioner Brendan Carr wrote that TikTok "poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting combined with Beijing's apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data."

Carr said that TikTok has not abided by Apple and Google's rules, because of the "pattern of conduct and misrepresentations regarding the unfettered access that persons in Beijing have to sensitive U.S. user data."

"TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface," Carr wrote.

"It's not just an app for sharing funny videos or memes. That's the sheep's clothing. At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data."

Carr who becomes the commissioner of the FCC in June 2017, under Donald Trump's administration, described ByteDance as the "beholden" to the Chinese government and "required by law to comply with [Chinese government] surveillance demands."

This is made worse when U.S.-based TikTok employees did not know how to — and did not have permission to — access the data, and relied on staff in China to do so, according to the report from BuzzFeed News.

In response to its story, a TikTok spokesperson said that "We know we're among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of U.S. user data.

"That's why we hire experts in their fields, continually work to validate our security standards, and bring in reputable, independent third parties to test our defenses."

In response to the situation, TikTok announced that "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 U.S.-based security team. TikTok has consistently maintained that our engineers in locations outside of the U.S., including China, can be granted access to U.S. user data on an as-needed basis under those strict controls."

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr.

Following the leak, the company also announced that "100% of U.S. user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure," rather than being stored in its own data centers in the U.S. and Singapore.

"We still use our U.S. and Singapore data centers for backup, but as we continue our work we expect to delete U.S. users’ private data from our own data centers and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the U.S.," TikTok said in another newsroom post.

While this should make things easier for TikTok to avoid ban and other issues, there is one major drawback.

TikTok’s head of global cyber and data defense reportedly said in the conversations that while Oracle would be providing the physical data storage space for Project Texas, TikTok would still control the software layer.

What this means, its employees in China can still have a certain degree of access.

So here, while TikTok physically stores all data in the U.S., that seemingly won't stop employees in China from accessing it.

This is the other reason why the FCC wants Apple and Google to kick TikTok out of their respective app stores.