National security risks, national security risks everywhere.
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has stated an issue requesting Google and Apple to remove the China-based TikTok from their app stores. The FCC cited that the app is a concern for national security.
The FCC sent a letter to Google’s Sindar Pichai and Apple’s Tim Cook regarding the removal as early as June 24. FCC Commissioner Brendon Carr described TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, as “beholden” to the Chinese government and “required by law to comply with [the Chinese Government’s] surveillance demands”. He also cited a BuzzFeed News report stating that user data has been accessed from China. With this, Carr noted that TikTok is “out of compliance with the policies that both of your companies require every app to adhere to.”
In response, TikTok regarded the BuzzFeed news report as misleading. Meanwhile, Google and Apple are yet to comment.
“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 US-based security team. TikTok has consistently maintained that our engineers in locations outside of the US, including China, can be granted access to U.S. user data on an as-needed basis under those strict controls.” said TikTok in a statement.
Buzzfeed responded to the accusation saying it stands firm in its report that US user data is being accessed in China. And even highlighted how “TikTok confirmed this in its own statement”.
TikTok US executive Michael Beckerman also testified in Congress about how it collects less user data than “many of our peers”.
The FCC cannot regulate the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store and it has no power to remove certain apps on them, so they are relying on the two companies to take action. They stated that “Apple and Google hold themselves out as operating app stores that are safe and trusted places to download apps.”
Attempts to ban the app in the US failed. During Donald Trump’s presidency, an executive order was made to ban certain Chinese apps, which included TikTok but this went nowhere. A new executive order laid out last June 2021 by the current US President, Joe Biden, has been made to replace the failed executive order. This new order calls for a government review of foreign-owned apps for security risks.
A TikTok spokesperson said that the company would “gladly engage with lawmakers to set the record straight regarding BuzzFeed’s misleading reporting, and 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.”