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FCC commissioner pressures Apple and Google to remove TikTok

A member of the Federal Communications Commission has asked Google and Apple to remove TikTok from their app stores, citing concerns that the popular Chinese-owned video app could send US data back to Beijing.

In a letter to companies released Tuesday, Republican commissioner Brendan Carr said he believed that “TikTok’s behavior and misrepresentations regarding the unhindered access of people in Beijing to sensitive US user data” violated Apple and Google standards and that TikTok should be taken out of the app stores.

Mr. Carr̵[ads1]7;s request is unlikely to succeed because the FCC does not regulate the app stores and the commission’s agenda is largely set by its Democratic chairman. But it shows the persistent pressure on Chinese technology companies from officials in Washington.

Politicians have long worried that TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, could disclose its data to the Chinese government. Former President Donald J. Trump tried to force ByteDance to sell the app or be expelled from app stores by 2020. At one point, the Trump administration announced an agreement in which Oracle, the US cloud computing company, would have taken over some of those companies. The sale was never completed.

The Biden administration has considered other measures to keep US data away from China, but has not publicly pressured TikTok to cut ties with its Chinese owner.

TikTok has claimed that they are taking steps to prevent employees in China from accessing their data. Shortly before a recent news report revealed that it was struggling to do so, it said it was directing all data from its US users through servers controlled by Oracle.

Brooke Oberwetter, a spokeswoman for TikTok, said the company was in contact with lawmakers who had asked questions about computer practices. Jose Castaneda, a spokesman for Google, declined to comment. Apple and the FCC did not respond to requests for comment.

In his letter, Carr said he did not think TikTok’s efforts would make a difference.

“TikTok has long claimed that their US user data has been stored on servers in the United States, and yet these representations provided no protection against the data accessed from Beijing,” he wrote. “TikTok’s statement that ‘100 percent of US user traffic is routed to Oracle’ actually says nothing about where this data can be accessed from.”

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