WASHINGTON — U.S. Federal Communication Commission member Brendan Carr has asked Google and Apple to remove TikTok from app stores over data security concerns.
Carr shared a letter on Twitter Tuesday addressing Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, calling the platform "not just another video app" and saying it violates Google and Apple's app store policies.
"At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data," the commissioner wrote in the letter.
TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which faced scrutiny when Donald Trump threatened to "shut down" the app in 2020. Ben Rathe, a TikTok spokesperson, said the company will engage with lawmakers to answer any questions about its data security.
The commissioner's letter said the companies have until July 8 to provide a detailed response if they don't remove the app from their stores. The statements should explain Apple and Google's conclusions on why the social media platform's "surreptitious access" of users' data doesn't violate the companies' app store policies.
Despite the open letter, neither tech giant is required to comply with Carr's request. He would have to bring the matter up with the FCC to levy any punishments against Google or Apple.
Carr cited a recent BuzzFeed News report detailing recorded audios of TikTok employees which showed U.S. user data has been accessed from China.
A TikTok spokesperson said in an email that the Buzzfeed report is "misleading." Additionally, it said it is "continuing to work on additional safeguards on U.S. data for improved peace of mind for our community."
The social media platform announced on June 17, the same day the report was published, it's moving U.S. data to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure servers located in the U.S.
"We still use our US and Singapore data centers for backup, but as we continue our work we expect to delete US users' private data from our own data centers and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the U.S.," the company wrote in a press release.
Carr's June 24 letter said this doesn't fix his concerns.
"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 Bejing," he wrote.