US senator calls on Apple and Google to ban TikTok from app stores

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet penned a letter to the CEOs of Apple and Google today, demanding that they ban Chinese-owned TikTok from their app stores on national security grounds (via The New York Times).

Bennet, a Colorado Democrat and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent the letter to Apple’s Tim Cook and Google’s Sundar Pichai, saying that no company “subject to the dictates of the Chinese Communist Party should have the power, so extensive.” Gathering data on the American people or curating content for nearly a third of our population.”

“TikTok’s massive influence and aggressive data collection pose a particular threat to U.S. national security due to the parent company’s obligations under Chinese law,” Bennet wrote. “Article 7 of China’s National Intelligence Law states that ‘every organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with the work of the state intelligence agency.’ Article 14 gives Chinese state security agencies the power to require cooperation from companies like ByteDance, while Articles 16 and 17 allow secret agents to access relevant materials and files and use their communication tools and facilities.

Bennet goes on to cite a BuzzFeed News Report from June last year, which indicated that TikTok engineers in China had access to US users’ data between September 2021 and January 2022. “Everything is seen in China,” a TikTok employee said in records verified by BuzzFeedwith the records also referring to a “master admin” engineer in China who “has access to everything”.

Bennet’s letter ends by saying, “In light of these serious and growing concerns, I request that you remove TikTok from your respective app stores immediately.”

TikTok has been in the crosshairs of US regulators for years, dating back to the Trump administration’s failed attempt to ban the app from US app stores in September 2020. However, concerns about the app have increased in recent weeks after both Republicans and Democrats have urged authorities to impose tougher restrictions on data collection or ban the app from the US entirely.

For its part, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, unveiled a plan in August detailing how it will prevent the Chinese government from accessing US user data and how it will provide the US government with oversight of the platform . The Biden administration has yet to respond to the company’s plan.

Meanwhile, at least 27 state governments have enacted full or partial bans on the app, while a bipartisan bill introduced in Congress in December would ban the app for everyone in the United States. The House Foreign Affairs Committee plans to vote on the bill this month.

Senator Bennet’s full letter to Apple and Google can be read on Scribd.

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