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Why is the FCC commissioner calling for TikTok to be banned? Social media platform responds to data security concerns 

FCC Commisioner urges tech giants Apple and Google to removeTikTok from their stores (Image via Reuters)
FCC Commisioner urges tech giants Apple and Google to removeTikTok from their stores (Image via Reuters)
Rachel Ann Rodrigues

TikTok, a hugely popular short-form video streaming app, has found itself in American policy-makers' crosshairs yet again. This time, the issue is over its ownership by Chinese internet giants, ByteDance.

TikTok's parent company has responded to US lawmakers' appeal to ban the app in the United States of America, stating that it will take all measures to "remove any doubts" regarding US user data security.

ByteDance even went on to confirm that some China-based employees have access to the non-public data of US TikTok users, but the said employees follow strict protocols set by the US-based team.


FCC commissioner calls for removal of TikTok from Google and Apple's app stores

TikTok denied sharing data with the Chinese government, but accepted that data is accessible to their engineers under certain circumstances (image via Reuters)
TikTok denied sharing data with the Chinese government, but accepted that data is accessible to their engineers under certain circumstances (image via Reuters)

After a BuzzFeed article sparked security concerns on June 17, nine Republican senators demanded answers from TikTok. The article had reported that TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, was able to access its American users' non-public data.

An FCC commissioner asked Google and Apple to remove TikTok from their app stores, citing concerns that the Chinese-owned video app could send U.S. data to Beijing. nyti.ms/3OKIlta

Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Brendan Carr called for the platform to be banned. He addressed the letter to Apple and Google on Twitter, urging them to remove TikTok from their respective stores. He described the data controversy as “an unacceptable national security."

In a tweet accompanying the letter, Carr said, "TikTok is not just another video app. That’s the sheep’s clothing," as it functions as a surveillance tool that collects a wide range of personal information, including location data, browsing history, texts, images and videos stored on the device and sends it to Beijing.

He called on Apple and Google to remove the video streaming app from their app stores due to its "pattern of surreptitious data practices.”

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. https://t.co/Le01fBpNjn

In a strongly worded letter, Carr claimed:

“TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance — an organization that is beholden to the Communist Party of China and required by the Chinese law to comply with PRC’s surveillance demands… It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data.”
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Google and Apple have not yet responded to calls from the FCC to remove the app from their stores.Carr's appeal for an app ban does not amount to much, considering the FCC does not have the authority to regulate apps.


TikTok promises to make changes to avoid US ban

On July 1, TikTok's parent company, Bytedance, responded to the claims made by US lawmakers. The letter, as reported by Reuters, accepted that some employees do “have access to TikTok U.S. user data.”

The statement went on to clarify, that these employees are “subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols overseen by our U.S.-based security team.”

ByteDance is also committed to making changes that will “fully safeguard user data, U.S. national security interests, and U.S. national security interests.”

TikTok’s Head of U.S. Security Public Policy, Albert Calamug, said that the company has long stored U.S. user data in its own data centers in the U.S. and Singapore, but that it is in the process of finalizing “new advanced data security controls” by teaming up with Oracle.

“We still use our U.S. and Singapore data centers for backup, but as we continue our work we expect to delete U.S. users’ private data from our own data centers and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the U.S."

Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee responded to ByteDance's statement by saying that the Chinese-run company should've had come clean from the start, but it was working in secrecy. She warned Americans that using TikTok meant that Communist China had access to their information.

In August 2020, then-President of the United States of America, Mr. Donald Trump had ordered ByteDance to sell the app to American entities under the threat of a shutdown. The federal judge had overruled his demands, stating that he "overstepped his authority" by ordering TikTok to shut down.


Edited by Abu Amjad Khan

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