Friday, July 1, 2022

FCC Commissioner Calls for TikTok to Be Remove From App Store

Brendan Carr (Hacker News):

TikTok is not just another video app.

That’s the sheep’s clothing.

It harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing.

I’ve called on @Apple & @Google to remove TikTok from their app stores for its pattern of surreptitious data practices.


Tiktok’s pattern of misrepresentations coupled with its ownership by an entity beholden to the CCP has resulted in U.S. military branches and national security agencies banning it from government devices.

John Gruber:

This whole charade about moving U.S. TikTok users’ data to servers run by Oracle is a facade — there’s nothing stopping ByteDance employees in China from accessing the data on those servers. The Biden administration shouldn’t merely request that Apple and Google ban TikTok from their App Stores, they should demand it.

Nick Heer:

As a reminder, Carr works for the FCC, not the FTC. Nor does Carr work for the Department of Commerce, which was most recently tasked with eradicating TikTok from the United States. While frequent readers will know how much I appreciate a regulator doing their job and making tough demands, I feel Carr’s fury is misplaced and, perhaps, a little disingenuous.

Carr’s letter follows Emily Baker-White’s reporting earlier this month for Buzzfeed News about the virtually nonexistent wall between U.S. user data collected by TikTok and employees at ByteDance, its parent company in China. The concerns, Baker-White says, are claims of persistent backdoors connected to Chinese military or intelligence which allow access to users’ “nonpublic data”.


But, you know, maybe they should be worried about that simpler situation. I think Baker-White buried the lede in that big, long Buzzfeed story[…]

Emily Baker-White:

Project Texas’s narrow focus on the security of a specific slice of US user data, much of which the Chinese government could simply buy from data brokers if it so chose, does not address fears that China, through ByteDance, could use TikTok to influence Americans’ commercial, cultural, or political behavior.

Nick Heer:

One of the frustrating characteristics about Carr’s letter is that he is, in many ways, completely right — and I just wish he had raised these concerns about literally everything else applicable. From the perspective of a non-American, his concerns about intrusive surveillance reflect those I have about my data being stored under the control of American companies operating under American laws. Sure, Canada is both an ally and a participant in the Five Eyes group. But it is hard to be reassured by that when the U.S. has lost its moral high ground by wiretapping allies and entire countries.

Chance Miller:

In its response today, ByteDance confirmed that some employees do need “have access to TikTok U.S. user data.” It went on to clarify, however, that these employees are “subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols overseen by our U.S.-based security team.”

As noted by Reuters, however, ByteDance also committed to making changes that will “fully safeguard user data and U.S. national security interests.” The company said that it is in the process of finalizing “new advanced data security controls” in partnership with Oracle.


Update (2022-07-08): Karl Bode:

If you were to dig through the resulting news reports covering Carr’s empty letter, you’d be hard pressed to find a single one that could be bothered to note that Carr doesn’t have any regulatory authority over social media or app stores, the letter has absolutely no meaningful legal backing to support his request, or that Carr himself has absolutely zero credibility on consumer privacy issues.

Via Nick Heer:

Bode’s coverage of Carr’s regulatory history is also worth reading. If the collection of and access to Americans’ private data — maybe by a foreign government — really is a giant security concern, there are meaningful levers Carr could pull. But it is easier to blame this one app because it is very popular.

Update (2022-07-12): See also: The Economist (via Hacker News).

Update (2022-07-19): See also: Hacker News.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

Don't always agree with Nick Here but he's absolutely right. There's nothing quite like the smell of hypocrisy in the morning. As a test for "anti-sovereigntist" arguments about the simple wisdom of international free trade and data exchange, and especially when they come from the US, this really is hard to beat. (I, FWIW, am British--so by no means overjoyed at my own nation, but at the same time as rightly outraged as any "European".)

While I completely agree that the US's behavior when it comes to surveillance is outrageous, I also find the pretense that there is no difference between China and the US to be disingenuous. As a non-American, while I'd rather not have anyone abuse my usage data from services like TikTok, I'm a lot more worried about what China will do with this kind of data than I am about the US.

This recent trend of conflating all countries, as if there was no difference between different political systems, is quite worrying. If people can't tell the difference between living in a democracy and living in a "one-party socialist republic", we'll all end up living in the latter rather soon.

I read his point as "If we don't want this kind of data to end up in the wrong places, we need to ban all collection of the data" since it can be bought on an open market any way.

It's a step forward that people in the us are admitting that data mining can be harmful.

But I thought the more interesting point is the one about propaganda and how serving certain kind of content might influence people.

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