The TikTok app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration.
A Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission has urged Apple and Alphabet Inc's CEOs to get TikTok out of its app stores.
Brendan Carr, the FCC commissioner, said in a letter to the CEOs, and sent on FCC letterhead, that TikTok has collected vast amounts of sensitive data about U.S. users that could be accessed by ByteDance staff in Beijing. Carr tweeted details of the letter on Tuesday.
TikTok is not just a video app. Carr said on Twitter that sheep's clothing is the sheep's clothing. Carr asked the companies to remove TikTok from their app stores by July 8 or explain why they did not plan to do so.
Carr's request is unusual given that the FCC does not have clear jurisdiction over the content of app stores. The FCC is responsible for granting certain communications licenses to companies when it comes to the national security space.
A TikTok spokeswoman said that the company's engineers in locations outside of the United States, including China, can be granted access to U.S. user data on an as-needed basis and under strict controls. Google didn't respond to a request for comment on Carr's letter, while Apple didn't respond immediately to a request for comment.
TikTok has been subject to U.S. regulatory scrutiny over its collection of U.S. personal data. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States CFIUS ordered ByteDance in 2020 to divest TikTok because of fears that the U.S. user data could be passed on to China's communist government.
To address these concerns, TikTok said earlier this month that it moved the information of its U.S. users to servers at Oracle Corp.
A spokesman for the US Department of the Treasury, who chairs CFIUS, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Richard Sofield, a national security partner at Vinson Elkins LLP, said that the TikTok partnership with Oracle is a suggestion that at least some parts of the U.S. government don't think this is enough.