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What just happened? Brendan Carr, a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, has called on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their respective app stores following new reports that users' data is being accessed by the Chinese-based employees of its parent company ByteDance.
"TikTok is not just another video app. That's the sheep's clothing. It harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing," Carr tweeted.
The already-popular TikTok saw an uptick in users during the pandemic and now boasts over 1 billion MAUs (monthly active users). This is despite long-held privacy and national-security concerns over China-based ByteDance accessing sensitive information about those who use the short-form video platform.
The new reports that Carr mentions comes from BuzzFeed News. The publication writes that leaked audio from more than 80 internal ByteDance meetings confirmed that engineers had repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users between September 2021 and January 2022. The report was published a few hours after TikTok said it had migrated 100% of US user traffic to a new Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
TikTok is not just another video app.— Brendan Carr (@BrendanCarrFCC) June 28, 2022
That's the sheep's clothing.
It harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing.
I've called on @Apple & @Google to remove TikTok from their app stores for its pattern of surreptitious data practices. pic.twitter.com/Le01fBpNjn
Carr included in his tweet a copy of the letter he sent to Apple boss Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai asking for TikTok to be removed from the companies' respective app stores. He states that the app "poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting combined with Beijing's apparently unchecked access to that sensitive 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."
The Trump administration fought a long-running battle with TikTok, including a threat to ban the app if a US buyer did not purchase it. Microsoft and Oracle seemed interested but neither company made a move. The deadline to buy eventually passed without the government implementing a ban.
Masthead credit: drserg