The Chinese video app Tiktok is threatened with new problems in the USA. The commissioner of a supervisory authority accuses the platform of forwarding US user data to Beijing. He substantiates his allegations with secret recordings of Tiktok employees.
A senior FCC member has called on Apple and Google to remove Tiktok from their app stores. In an open letter, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr justified his move with blatant data protection violations. "Tiktok acts as a sophisticated surveillance tool that hoards vast amounts of personal and sensitive data," Carr writes. People in Beijing could access it "unhindered".
Users can record and distribute short videos via the Tiktok social media platform. It is especially popular with young people. Tiktok's parent company is the Chinese company Bytedance, in which the government in Beijing holds shares. "Tiktok collects everything from search history to keystrokes to biometrics, including fingerprints [...] and voice recordings," Carr writes.
He bases his allegations on voice recordings by Bytedance employees that the news portal Buzzfeed published. It follows that information from Americans was repeatedly accessed from Beijing, although Tiktok claims to only store data from the USA there. "Everything is seen in China," said a Tiktok official.
Tiktok is repeatedly confronted with data protection allegations. In his letter, Carr also refers to previous proceedings against Tiktok. Last year, the company paid $92 million to settle a lawsuit. At that time, dozens of plaintiffs accused the platform of secretly transferring large amounts of data to Chinese servers. Former US President Donald Trump had already tried to ban the app from the USA in 2020 - without success.
Carr is now personally calling on the heads of Apple and Google to remove Tiktok because the platform violates data protection standards. The companies have until July 8 to respond. Carr did not mention possible consequences if the deadline expires. The request is unusual because the FCC does not have direct jurisdiction over app store content.
Tiktok rejects the accusation of treating stored data carelessly. A spokeswoman said that while employees outside of the United States, including China, can be granted access to US user data, they can only do so "as needed" and under "strict controls."