FCC Commissioner Wants to Ban Tik Tok

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Since the release of TikTok in 2016, the social media platform has caused controversy to the same extent as its growing popularity. TikTok’s videos and live broadcasts are distributed all over the world, and more than a billion people view the platform’s content every month. However, as these numbers continue to grow, so do warnings in the United States of America that TikTok is not what it seems. Recent developments on this front have even prompted one of the FCC commissioners to demand that TikTok be banned by both Apple and Google on iOS and Android devices.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, one of the four members of the FCC steering group, took the initiative to contact Apple and Google about TikTok’s status last week. Carr delivered a letter to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and Google, asking them to ban TikTok on each platform. In particular, Carr says TikTok’s “secret data practices” violate both platforms’ own rules and should therefore be removed.

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Carr was asked to write the letter after the recent release of a BuzzFeed News report. Carr describes the report as making it clear that TikTok developer ByteDance “repeatedly accessed confidential data that TikTok collected from Americans.” One TikTok official even went so far as to say that “everything is visible in China,” which, according to Carr, directly contradicts previous statements about what data is collected through the TikTok app.

According to Carr, TikTok poses an “unacceptable security threat” due to Beijing’s “apparently uncontrolled access to this sensitive data.” Further, his letter will quote what Carr considers to be specific accusations of TikTok’s non-compliance with the Apple App Store and Google Play Store policies. These charges include circumvention of privacy protections, access to passwords and personal messages, as well as the settlement of lawsuits related to the collection of personal data and their storage location.

Why Carr decided to contact Apple and Google directly instead of working with the FCC to investigate the problem further is unclear. Carr was nominated to the FCC by President Donald Trump and endorsed by the then Republican Senate. The Trump administration even went so far as to issue an executive order obliging ByteDance to sell its products to an American company, followed by a ban that has since failed in U.S. courts before being overturned by President Biden.

While there are questions about Carr politicizing the TikTok issue due to an unclear agenda, TikTok’s willingness and ability to collect its users’ personal data is becoming increasingly apparent. However, this is not unique to TikTok. Similar accusations have been leveled to varying degrees against Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social networks. If Carr believes that data collection is a crime subject to a ban on iOS and Android, then TikTok is not the only app that Apple and Google should ban.