FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr wrote to Apple and Google on Tuesday, requesting the companies to remove TikTok from their app stores for “its pattern of surreptitious data practices.” This comes after BuzzFeed News reported last week that TikTok's staff in China had access to US-based users' data up until January.
“As you know TikTok is an app that is available to millions of Americans through your app stores, and it collects vast troves of sensitive data about those US users. TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance — an organization that is beholden to the Communist Party of China and required by the Chinese law to comply with PRC's surveillance demands,” Carr said in a letter addressed to Sundar Pichai and Tim Cook.
“It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing's apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data.”
After BuzzFeed News published its report, TikTok quickly went on the defense and announced that it is moving all US users' data to Oracle servers situated in the country. It specified that the company still uses its own US and Singapore-based servers for backup. But in the future, it expects to “delete U.S. users’ private data from our own data centers and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the U.S.”
“We're also making operational changes in line with this work – including the new department we recently established, with US-based leadership, to solely manage US user data for TikTok,” the company added.
TikTok's user data practices have come under suspicion many times. In 2020, India banned TikTok over national security concerns, and both former President Donald Trump and the current president Joe Biden have raised questions about the short video app's relations with China and how it affects US users' data. While Trump proposed an outright ban on TikTok or an option of selling its US business to a local buyer, Biden proposed new rules that will give more oversight on apps with ties to “jurisdiction of foreign adversaries” that may pose national security risks.
We have reached out to TikTok, Apple, and Google for a comment.