FCC Commissioner calls for TikTok's removal from Apple, Google app stores

TikTok, the popular short-form video app, is getting some heat from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding data sharing. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has called on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their respective app stores, on the grounds of “surreptitious data practices.”

In a letter addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Carr claimed TikTok poses an “unacceptable national security risk” due to “extensive data harvesting.” He suggested that ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company based in Beijing, has access to U.S. user data, which is then stored in servers located in China.

Carr cited findings from last week’s Buzzfeed report, which is based on leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings. According to Buzzfeed, the recordings indicated TikTok employees in China had access to U.S. data between September 2021 and January 2022, at least.

Furthermore, Buzzfeed wrote U.S. TikTok staff “did not have permission or knowledge of how to access the data on their own.”

Following the report’s release, TikTok said in a statement all its U.S. user traffic is being routed to Oracle’s cloud infrastructure, but the company is still using its U.S. and Singapore data centers for backup.

This is hardly the first time TikTok has fallen under federal scrutiny. Former President Donald Trump issued in August 2020 an executive order that would ban business with TikTok – 45 days after issuance.

A U.S. District Court judge halted that order just before it was due to take effect. Last June, President Joe Biden signed an executive order revoking Trump’s ban on TikTok.

However, Biden urged the Secretary of Commerce to “evaluate on a continuing basis” TikTok and other social media apps that might “pose an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States.”

TikTok was originally released in the Chinese market in September 2016. It became available worldwide in August 2018 after merging with Musical.ly, another Chinese social media platform.

Short-form video content has gained momentum with the help of TikTok. A latest eMarketer report highlighted that U.S. adult users have spent an average of 45.8 minutes a day on TikTok this year, inching past YouTube daily user time (45.6 minutes).

TikTok isn’t only popular with mobile users, it’s expanding distribution on connected TVs. The service last year launched an app on Amazon’s Fire TV and added smart TV manufacturers like LG and Samsung to its list of distribution partners. Most recently, TikTok introduced integration to Vizio Smartcast TVs.