Will The US Ban TikTok? Apple & Google Put On Notice

30 June 2022 | 1:52 pm | Dan Cribb

Is TikTok running out of time?

A major regulatory body in the US is calling for both Apple and Google to delete TikTok from their app stores, citing it as a “serious national security threat”.

Commissioner Brendan Carr of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an independent agency of the US Federal Government that regulates communications across a number of platforms, has shared a four-page letter calling for the platform, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, to be removed.

“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface,” Carr stated. “It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or memes. That’s the sheep’s clothing. At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.

“Indeed, TikTok collects everything from search and browsing histories to keystroke patterns and biometric identifiers, including faceprints-which researchers have said might be used in unrelated facial recognition technology–and voiceprints. It collects location data as well as draft messages and metadata, plus it has collected the text, images, and videos that are stored on a device’s clipboard.

“The list of personal and sensitive data it collects goes on from there. This should come as no surprise, however. Within its own borders, the PRC has developed some of the most invasive and omnipresent surveillance capabilities in the world to maintain authoritarian control.

Carr also said that TikTok violates App Store guidelines.

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“It is clear 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,” he said. 

“But it is also clear that TikTok’s pattern of conduct and misrepresentations regarding the unfettered access that persons in Beijing have to sensitive U.S. user data-just some of which is detailed below puts it out of compliance with the policies that both of your companies require every app to adhere to as a condition of remaining available on your app stores. 

“Therefore, I am requesting that you apply the plain text of your app store policies to TikTok and remove it from your app stores for failure to abide by those terms.”

The FCC has given Apple and Google until July 8 to respond.

In response, a TikTok spokesperson told CNBC: “Like many global companies, TikTok has engineering teams around the world. We employ access controls like encryption and security monitoring to secure user data, and the access approval process is overseen by our US-based security team.

“TikTok has consistently maintained that our engineers in locations outside of the US, including China, can be granted access to U.S. user data on an as-needed basis under those strict controls.”

The FCC’s demand follows previous threats from the US government, with Trump announcing in 2020 that TikTok would be banned in the US unless sold to an American company, but nothing happened when its deadline was reached.

Biden voided that order while initiating his own review of TikTok as part of a broader investigation of apps owned by companies outside of the US.

The influence of TikTok in recent years on the music industry is undeniable.

Back in January Aussie artist Peach PRC shared a snippet of new single God Is A Freak to her near-2 million followers, which blew up and resulted in chaos behind the scenes at her label as they scrambled to put together an official release for the track off the back of the hype.

Meanwhile, Newcastle outfit Vacations have been caught up in a number of TikTok trends over the past couple of years, leading to huge international interest. They’re currently in the US performing sold-out dates.

Australian artists are now also paid royalties when their music is used on TikTok, thanks to a recent deal with APRA AMCOS, while the weekly ARIA #1 album is revealed first on the platform each week.