U.S. FCC (Federal Communications Commission) commissioner Brendan Carr shared Thursday on Twitter a latter in which he urges Apple and Google to boot TikTok out from the AppStore and Google Play store amid user data harvesting and misuse claims.
TikTok is a widely popular application for video sharing which has garnered a lot of users in the past few years. The company behind it, ByteDance is a Chinese company previously known for the application Musically which has morphed into TikTok. ByteDance and TikTok have already faced scrutiny from former president Donald J. Trump back in August 2020 due to similar data protection concerns.
In the letter addressed by Brendan Carr to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook and Alphabet (Google)’s CEO Sundar Pichai, Carr declares that “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”.
Why TikTok is a significant threat to data privacy
Brendan Carr opens their letter with the fact that last week, a new and alarming report shed fresh light on the serious national security threat posed by TikTok. A leaked audio recording published by BuzzFeed reveals that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has repeatedly accessed the sensitive data that they’ve collected from TikTok users in America.
The same day that the BuzzFeed report came out, TikTok announced it was routing all United States user traffic to their Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, and the United States user data will also be moved from its ByteDance’s data centers in the U.S. and Singapore to Oracle cloud servers in the U.S. This might, however, be too little too late.
It’s important to remember that TikTok is owned by ByteDance which is a Beijing-based company, which means the company must comply with the PRC’s surveillance demands. In other words, the communist party of China can demand access to any bit of information TikTok has on its users.
Federal Communications Commission may ban TikTok in the U.S.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr calls upon Apple and Google to remove the application as they’ve manually reviewed and allowed it to be downloadable from their app stores. According to Brendan Carr, TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its data harvesting practices combined with Beijing’s unfettered access to this sensitive data.
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.
I’ve called on @Apple & @Google to remove TikTok from their app stores for its pattern of surreptitious data practices. pic.twitter.com/Le01fBpNjn
— Brendan Carr (@BrendanCarrFCC) June 28, 2022
Does this spell the end for TikTok?
As concerns regarding data harvesting and data protection begin to grow, it is possible that Apple and Google may have to ban TikTok and other such offenders from their app stores to comply with the increasingly stringent sensitive data protection laws and rules.
In Europe, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) laws have already started to drive major changes in how companies handle sensitive data. Under GDPR, stored data must be accessible for the user to delete at any time, and the company must be fully transparent on who has access to the data, what they are doing to it, and why. Failing to comply has resulted in multi-million euro fines.
There’s no General Data Protection Regulation for the U.S. but there is CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) which was directly inspired by GDPR. There are, however, many laws and rules about data protection with fines being administered each ear for such breaches. There is, however, increased interest from state regulatory bodies to enhance the data protection policies.
This new attitude toward better data protection and management can spell disaster for TikTok, WeChat, and many other Chinese-owned platforms. The political tension between Beijing and NATO amidst the Ukraine / Russia War does not help. The concerns about sensitive US data being accessed by the Chinese communist part begin to grow and may end up in a decision to ban the social media of China.
Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash
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