With over 655.9 million users worldwide, TikTok is one of the most popular social media apps, with one of the largest user bases in the US. The app showcases short videos on everything from dance to pranks. So, why are US officials recommending a TikTok ban?
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officer Brendan Carr has taken it upon himself to write to Apple and Google CEOs to ban TikTok from their app stores. In a letter dated June 24, the FCC Commissioner urges Apple and Alphabet to ban TikTok citing national security risks.
TikTok’s Explosive Growth and Privacy
It’s often said that there is no smoke without fire. For years, TikTok has continued to assure authorities that data collected from US users is stored in the US, and not China as many believe. A recent Buzzfeed report set fire to these claims, as the leaked audio of almost 80 internal meetings revealed that China-based employees of ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, have repeatedly accessed non-public data about US TikTok users. The recordings reviewed by BuzzFeed News clearly showed that TikTok engineers based in China had access to US data until January 2022, at the very least. A TikTok official reportedly said, “Everything is seen in China.” In his tweet, Carr mentioned that TikTok “collects search and browsing histories, keystroke patterns, biometric identifiers, draft messages and metadata, plus it has collected the text, images, and videos that are stored on a device’s clipboard.”
TikTok Ban and Effects
A TikTok App Store ban seems extreme but considering how popular it is with youngsters, authorities might not have any other alternative. Carr took to Twitter to share the letter he wrote to the CEOs. The FCC Commissioner urges Apple and Alphabet to “remove TikTok from their app stores for its pattern of surreptitious data practices.”
Calling for a TikTok government ban, Carr clearly calls out the video sharing app for “failure to comply with the data security requirements and other terms set forth in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store policies.” He then goes on to list various instances where TikTok has been found guilty of flouting rules concerning data practices. Carr also names senators and US officials who have expressed their concerns about the app in the past and urges the tech giants to ban TikTok as its policies are problematic to say the least.
In 2020, then US President Donald Trump had threatened to ban TikTok and wrote in his executive order that its “data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.” The FCC Commissioner urges Apple and Alphabet to remove the social media app by July 8, and to offer an explanation if they do not plan to do so. It is unusual for the FCC to step in as it doesn’t have clear regulation over the content of app stores. The FCC mainly regulates communication by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable across the United States.
Earlier this month TikTok had confirmed that it had moved all US user data to Oracle servers stored in the United States. The company had also reassured skeptics saying it is putting a special team in place to “solely manage US user data for TikTok.”
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