FCC Commissioner Calls on Apple and Google to Delete TikTok From App Stores

FCC tiktok

There’s no question of TikTok’s popularity. Throughout 2022, TikTok has remained the most downloaded app globally. Videos from the app make their way to the Reels feature on Instagram and Facebook, and even to YouTube’s Shorts. According to one U.S. government official, though, the Chinese government is using it as a surveillance tool. An FCC commissioner has called for Apple and Google both to delete TikTok from their app stores.

Revisiting an Ongoing Concern

In 2020, former president Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok in the United States if it weren’t sold to an American company. That was when the video sharing app was first described as a threat to national security, owing in large part to service members posting videos from secure parts of military bases.

Trump’s executive order never actually banned TikTok, and President Joe Biden revoked it early in his administration. At the same time, the administration called on the government to more broadly review apps associated with foreign adversaries.

FCC Commissioner Says TikTok Is Dangerous

FCC commissioner Brendan Car recently sent a two-page open letter to both Apple and Google. Carr described TikTok as a way for Chinese authorities to gather data on what’s happening in the U.S. He went on to request the tech giants remove the app from their marketplaces by July 8.

Carr says TikTok is “not what it appears to be on the surface.” He refers to the ability to share funny videos or memes on TikTok as “the sheep’s clothing.” Rather, the official believes TikTok to be a “sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”

Since TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance, Carr says the app has to comply with any surveillance demands the Communist Party of China may make. This presents a national security risk, because of the amount of data harvested.

Privacy Concerns Exist, Even If There’s No National Security Threat

Reports have detailed the sort of information TikTok gathers from its users. This extends to much more than just which videos users view, like and post. The app also collects search and browsing histories, keystroke patterns and biometric identifiers.

For this reason alone, Carr says, TikTok violates the guidelines Apple has for its App Store. Google’s terms and conditions are very similar. For this reason, even if not for the sake of national security, the FCC commissioner says Apple and Google should remove TikTok from their respective app stores.

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W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

Honeypot, thy name is TikTok.  Give Westerners a fun way to give themselves five seconds of fame, and they’ll give you their bank PIN numbers and access to all their personal data. ‘Just do it quietly so that we can remain in denial’. Out of sight, out of mind.  It’s just the domestic security professionals who need to be worried about what an adversary will do with those data. It’s their job, after all. No matter what risks we take or warnings we ignore.  Good thing that Western governments pay government workers such high salaries and bonuses for every threat… Read more »

palmac

Wow, so cynical. Can’t we just share a laugh, a cute kitten or something we find interesting without it being a twisted desire to support evil? I’d hate to have you diagnose any of my illnesses, it would probably be worse than the illness itself.

palmac

I have several friends who share their enjoyment, celebrations and hobbies on TikTok without even a smidgeon of ego involved. This guy’s cynical post trying to make their joy into some kind of narcissistic evil is very offensive.

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

Jeff: You’re correct.  @palmac: The issue is neither narcissism nor ego; it’s about social engineering exploits. For the user, these apps are harmless fun. For their designers, it’s a serious business, private or state sponsored.  Social scientists, beginning with psychologists, and now others including epidemiologists have long understood the power of social engineering analyses as a tool to understand and map population-level behaviour and culture. I use this in my own work. The type of realtime data that users provide on apps like TikTok are just the kind of data that, were a scientist conducting a controlled study, would require… Read more »

palmac

I have several friends who share their enjoyment, celebrations and hobbies on TikTok without even a smidgeon of ego involved. This guy’s cynical post trying to make their joy into some kind of narcissistic evil is offensive.

palmac

So why doesn’t someone make a better social video app with extensive privacy/anti-surveillance safeguards baked in?

Lee Dronick

I guess that they would need to find a way of making it profitable without selling user data.

palmac

Free to watch, cheap monthly subscription to post, patreon-like crowdfunding support for people you like with “members only” video access, non-intrusive ads but scrubbed of all personal data and with a “Like,” a “More Ryan Reynolds Please” and a “Destroy this business! Burn it to the ground and salt the earth so nothing grows there for hundreds of years!” voting option. Create a subtle face-warping filter for a small extra cost that screws up AI facial recognition but still lets the person look like themselves, or their favorite web comic character (Krosp for me). Bake sales! 3D printed merchandise. Hedge… Read more »

palmac

Same here. Had a massive burnout (possible stroke) and can’t code for more than ten minutes without getting a big headache. Maybe we could pay someone on fiverr.com to code it? Or come up with a business plan/mission outline and crowdfund it?

palmac

Maybe suggest to your writers a three-article research project where:
1) They ask programmers how they would create a new kind of TikTok/social multi-media app with privacy/security/ad tracking assassins built in.
2) They ask money people how to fund and make it self-sufficient, keeping in mind that it isn’t supposed to make anyone a billionaire but it would be nice to rake in enough money to make improvements over time.
3) They ask internet lawyers how to prevent it from becoming evil.