Written on 14/07/2022

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has renewed calls asking for Apple and Google to boot the popular video-sharing platform TikTok from their app stores citing "its pattern of surreptitious data practices."

"… 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," Brendan Carr, a Republican member of the FCC, wrote in a letter to Apple and Google's chief executives.

TikTok, in September 2021, disclosed that there are one billion people who use its app every month, making it one of the largest social media platforms after Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, and WeChat.

The short-form video service is far from just an app for sharing funny videos or memes, it is also a "sophisticated surveillance tool" for amassing users' personal information, they said.  TikTok, is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance and has denied ever sharing user data with the Chinese government, but is back in the spotlight close on the heels of revelations from BuzzFeed News that U.S. users' data had been repeatedly accessed by employees based in China between September 2021 and January 2022 despite its assurances to the contrary.

TikTok has since announced that it's "changed the default storage location of U.S. user data" and that it's routing all information from its users in the country through infrastructure controlled by Oracle.  However, Carr noted these efforts do not address the core concerns of data access.

"TikTok has long claimed that its U.S. user data has been stored on servers in the U.S. and yet those representations provided no protection against the data being accessed from Beijing," The FCC said. 

Several U.S. military branches have already banned its members from using TikTok on government-issued devices due to possible security risks. In June 2020, the Indian government moved to block the app on similar grounds.

Alvaro is head of IT security at BATSOFTWARE.CO.UK
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