By Benjamin Flowers: The United States Federal Government has written to tech giants Apple and Google urging them to remove the popular social media app TikTok from their app stores over concerns that the company’s employees in China are accessing sensitive data about US users.
CBS News reports that Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Brendan Carr, wrote the letter to Google and Apple after a Buzzfeed news article revealed that TikTok employees in China had frequently accessed sensitive US user data. Buzzfeed reviewed the contents of 80 audio recordings of TikTok meetings that had been leaked, learning that Chinese employees were accessing birthdays, phone numbers, and other personal data of US users.
In his letter to Google and Apple, Carr reminds the companies that they purport to be operating app stores that are safe and provide trustworthy downloads, stressing that TikTok does not fit that profile.
“It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that data,” Carr said.
He asserted that the company allowing Beijing employees “unfettered access” to sensitive user data puts TikTok out of compliance with Apple and Google’s policies.
A TikTok spokesperson has responded by saying that the Buzzfeed report was misleading and that the company has taken steps to ensure greater security for user data, including routing all traffic through Oracle Cloud infrastructure. The spokespersons also said that the company would be happy to work along with authorities to clear up any misrepresentations made in the Buzzfeed report.
The FCC resorted to writing letters to Google and Apple because they cannot force the companies to ban the app, which has been downloaded 19 million times in the first quarter of 2022 alone, according to Carr.