TikTok To Be Pulled From Apple And Google Stores?

Sen. Michael Bennett has written to Apple and Google requesting they remove TikTok from their app stores.

By Douglas Helm | Published

The US government is once again cracking down on TikTok over privacy concerns. The Hollywood Reporter reported that Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. addressed Apple and Alphabet executives in a letter pushing them to remove the popular app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. This is the latest move against the Chinese-owned platform in what has largely been a bipartisan issue.

While there are undoubtedly privacy concerns for other social media companies like Meta and Twitter, action against TikTok typically cites national security concerns. Since the platform is owned by Chinese interests, the US government is concerned over the massive amounts of data the platform collects. The biggest concern is the fact the platform is obligated to cooperate with Chinese state intelligence under penalty of law.

The concerns aren’t without merit. There have been several issues with TikTok user privacy in the past. In November 2022, it was revealed that Chinese-based employees could remotely access European user data.

Another revelation from Buzzfeed News stated that Chinese-based TikTok employees could also access US user data. The platform has also been criticized for spreading misinformation, promoting propaganda, and allowing potentially harmful content to get through moderation. Sen. Michael Bennet’s letter also proposes that the company could potentially alter the algorithm in disingenuous ways, such as boosting content that criticized the US or silencing content that criticized the CCP and their policies.

This is far from the first time TikTok has gone up against the US government. During the Trump administration, Trump threatened bans to try and force Chinese parent company ByteDance to sell the US portion of TikTok (which itself is the international version of ByteDance’s Douyin platform) to a US company. ByteDance even engaged in early discussions with Walmart, Oracle, and Microsoft about the sale.

Instead of selling, TikTok would file a lawsuit against Trump after Trump’s executive order banned new downloads of the app after Septemeber 18, 2020. Judge Carl J. Nichols ruled that there was insufficient evidence to ban the platform and blocked Trump’s executive order. President Biden would then rescind the order in July 2021 and the lawsuit was subsequently dismissed.

However, Joe Biden would order the Secretary of Commerce to investigate TikTok’s potential threat to US national security. In December 2022, a measure to ban the app on all government devices was unanimously passed by the Senate. It remains to be seen if this latest letter ends up having any impact.

The letter filed by Sen. Michael Bennet is similar to a letter filed in June by FCC Comissioner Brendan Carr, which also called for an Apple and Google app store ban. National security concerns were also cited as the reason. While there are undoubtedly concerns about TikTok’s data policies, they have extended at least one olive branch back in March 2022.

In March, ByteDance negotiated a deal with Oracle, where Oracle would take on all of TikTok’s US data storage. If the platform is here to stay, hopefully these measures will be enough to protect user privacy. As for the letter, chief executive Shou Zi Chew will appear on behalf of ByteDance before a House committee in March.