Democratic senator urges Apple and Google to ban TikTok from their app stores


A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee is calling on Apple and Google to get rid of TikTok from their app suppliers more than fears about nationwide security, in the most recent indicator of mounting scrutiny on the limited-form movie app from customers of Congress.

In a letter sent to the two tech giants on Thursday, Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet calls TikTok “an unacceptable menace to the nationwide security of the United States” and cites the exact same problems that have prompted the federal govt and more than 50 % of US states to limit TikTok from formal equipment and networks.

Composing to Apple CEO Tim Cook dinner and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Bennet highlighted fears that China could use its national safety legislation to drive TikTok or its father or mother, ByteDance, to hand more than the personalized data of the app’s US end users. The rules in concern, Bennet wrote, involve companies in the region to “cooperate with point out intelligence work” and to let the governing administration to entry corporation sources. ByteDance’s founder is Chinese and the business has places of work in China. TikTok has also disclosed to European users that their details may well be accessed by employees based in China.

China could probably attempt to shape what US people see on the application, Bennet warned, with feasible implications for overseas coverage and democracy.

“We ought to settle for the quite genuine likelihood that [China] could compel TikTok, by using ByteDance, to use its influence to advance Chinese governing administration pursuits,” Bennet wrote, “for instance, by tweaking its algorithm to present Us residents content to undermine U.S. democratic establishments or muffle criticisms” of China’s managing of Hong Kong, Taiwan or ethnic minorities.

Apple and Google didn’t promptly react to a request for remark.

“Unfortunately, Senator Bennet’s letter depends practically exclusively on misleading reporting about TikTok, the facts we obtain, and our information safety controls,” explained Brooke Oberwetter, a TikTok spokesperson.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is predicted to testify right before a House committee in March to focus on the company’s facts protection techniques.

There is no proof that the kind of spying or manipulation US officers anxiety has actually occurred, but security gurus have warned that it is a risk.

TikTok has denied that it would ever hand in excess of US consumer facts to the Chinese federal government. It has ever more moved to wall off its US operations from the rest of its business, technologically and organizationally — portion of what the organization has described as a excellent-faith work to address the nationwide safety fears.

In her assertion, Oberwetter claimed Bennet’s letter “ignores the substantial financial investment we have manufactured as a result of Venture Texas—a plan negotiated with our country’s leading national security experts—to supply more assurances to our neighborhood about their info security and the integrity of the TikTok system.”

TikTok has used years negotiating a likely countrywide security offer with the US federal government that would request to take care of some of the worries, but the talks have been mired by delays, major to aggravation among some users of Congress. In current months, several US lawmakers have launched expenses that would ban TikTok from all US products, such as private kinds.

Some other US officers have also termed on Apple and Google to voluntarily remove TikTok from their app stores.

Last yr, Brendan Carr, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, wrote a letter to the providers urging them to de-checklist TikTok. The FCC does not regulate app merchants, but Carr has said that his agency’s encounter working with Chinese telecom firms has informed his views on the make a difference. The FCC has moved to block Chinese firms such as Huawei and ZTE from the US sector, over fears that their wireless networking gear could be used to collect information and facts on US communications.

While the top customers of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Virginia Democrat Mark Warner and Florida Republican Marco Rubio, have also been outspoken critics of TikTok, the two lawmakers experienced not been invited to co-indicator Bennet’s letter in advance of it was despatched, according to a spokesperson for Bennet. Rubio is an author of 1 of the costs trying to get to ban TikTok from the United States, even though Warner has mentioned he would like to see a bill that targets a broader group of worrisome applications, somewhat than a single app these types of as TikTok.