A new warning was issued by a federal official to Apple and Google. It asked them to remove TikTok, an app that is based in China, from their app stores. Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr referenced a Buzzfeed News report about the "serious threats to national security" that TikTok poses, in a letter addressed directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Sundar Piichai (CEO of Google's parent company Alphabet).
This report, which analysed audio leaked from more than 80 TikTok meetings, revealed that non-public data about U.S. TikTok user had been accessed and accessed by employees at ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. TikTok executive Michael Beckerman stated before Congress in 2021 that "TikTok actually gathers less data than many other of our peers."
BuzzFeed reported that ByteDance employees in Beijing had accessed sensitive data TikTok collected from Americans who downloaded the app. This allows users to create, share, and respond to short videos.
BuzzFeed reports that a TikTok member from the Trust and Safety department stated in September that "Everything is visible in China."
Carr can't force Apple or Google to delete the free app, but said that Apple and Google are operating safe and reliable app stores where you can download apps. Carr stated that statistics show that the app was downloaded 19 million times from both these app stores in the first quarter 2022.
He stated that TikTok is a national security threat because of its large data and Beijing's seemingly unchecked access. TikTok's "pattern and misrepresentations about the unfettered access Beijing has to sensitive U.S. data" makes it incompatible with Apple's and Google's policies.
The executive order was challenged immediately by the court. President Donald Trump attempted to ban the app. In June 2021, President Joe Biden rescinded the unsuccessful ban and issued a new executive ordering calling for a government review to determine if foreign-owned apps pose security threats.
China was cited by the Biden administration as an example of a country "that does not share these values and seeks to leverage digital technology and Americans' data in ways which present unacceptable national security risk while advancing authoritarian control and interests."
TikTok has also been criticized by other lawmakers. The BuzzFeed report was made public by Republican Senators. Roger Wicker, Tom Cotton and Janet Yellen wrote a letter asking for a delay in responding to the investigation into "the national security risks and privacy threats posed by TikTok". The letter was signed by four other Republican legislators.
Wicker joined Sen. MarshaBlackburn and other senators in writing a second letter on Monday to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, citing the BuzzFeed Report and Beckerman’s prior testimony.
The letter stated that TikTok's representative failed to provide truthful answers at the subcommittee hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee. TikTok appears to be taking steps to conceal its knowledge of misrepresentation by changing how 'protected' data can be accessed and accessed by employees.
The group asked several questions of the TikTok CEO, including: "Is it true TikTok employees in China have access to U.S. data?" data?" questions about the app's algorithm, and the involvement of the Chinese government.
State attorneys general launched an investigation into TikTok's possible negative effects on mental health of young users earlier this year. This increased government scrutiny of the popular video site. California, Florida and Kentucky led the investigation.
Responding to questions from lawmakers and BuzzFeed's report, a TikTok spokesperson stated that the company was doing "exactly what it promised: Addressing concerns about access to U.S. data by employees who are not U.S. citizens."
We've been vocal and clear about our efforts in this area, as we strive to address both access and location. "We are pleased to announce that Oracle Cloud Infrastructure now routes 100% of U.S. traffic," the statement states.
TikTok spokesperson said that the company will "gladly engage in legislative discussions to set the record straight concerning BuzzFeed’s misleading reporting" and that the company "has consistently maintained that engineers located outside the U.S., such as China, can be granted access U.S. data on an individual basis under these strict controls."