Carr issued an open letter calling on both Goggle and Apple to block the TikTok app from their respective operating systems. This, he said, is due to concerns over the Chinese owners of TikTok, ByteDance , using the app to steal information from its users and to basically spy on Americans.
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In an open letter on the matter issued on FCC letterhead, Brendan Carr wrote, “TikTok is not just another video app. That’s the sheep’s clothing.”
Carr went on to say that TikTok, “harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing.”
“It 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.”
“At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data,” Carr added. “Indeed, TikTok collects everything from search and browsing histories to keystroke patterns and biometric identifiers, including face prints and voiceprints.”
Because of all of this the FCC Commissioner went on to declare 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.”
There is nothing new about this issue. In 2020 then President Trump took action to try and ban TikTok from operating in the U.S. He issued an order giving ByteDance 90 days to either sell or spin off its U.S. TikTok operations. But the company sued and the order was blocked by the courts.
Recently BuzzFeed reported on it. The report included a statement from TikTok saying, “We know we’re among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of US user data. That’s why we hire experts in their fields, continually work to validate our security standards, and bring in reputable, independent third parties to test our defenses.”
TikTok has taken action and on the matter and has moved its servers and all the information that it collects to the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure which is located in the U.S. The company hopes that this will allay concerns about the data that it collects ending up in the hands of Chinese intelligence agencies. But even so, there is no guarantee that the company cannot still transfer information to third parties.
Interestingly, in 2020 the owner of Oracle, Larry Ellison, tried to purchase all of TikTok’s U.S. operations. This, it was thought, would end concerns over the privacy of its American users. But that deal never went through.
It is not clear, however, if any real action will be taken on FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr’s letter.