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Science And Nature

The tide is moving from TikTok: A conversation with FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr

If TikTok could possibly be thought to have a chief antagonist in the bureaucracy of the government, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr will be as good an applicant as anyone for that designation.

The commissions senior Republican, nominated to your body by President Trump, has repeatedly denounced TikTok in interviews and public statements for presenting an obvious national security threat. Motivated by leaks of audio from internal TikTok meetings showing that US user data has been accessed from inside China despite earlier protestations to the contrary from the business Carr in addition has gotten creative in his ongoing crusade contrary to the video app.

Hes sent letters to Google and Apple, for instance, demanding a conclusion for just why an app such as this thats proven to violate their rules shouldnt be kicked out of these respective app stores.

Up to now, Carr explained, only Google has taken care of immediately that letter. Also it was with, as he puts it, a word salad defense acknowledging Carrs concern and promising that Google can look in to the issue. No answer from Apple yet, but Carr isnt worried. The tide is moving from TikTok, he said.

Is China collecting data from TikTok?

People look at TikTok and say, well, its only a fun app for sharing videos, Carr explained concerning the app which, by the time of the writing, Apple lists because the #2 Top Free App in its App Store. Moreover, Apple also contains TikTok on its set of Must-Have Apps, that is a separate ranking.

tiktok app screen
Photo illustration of the TikTok mobile app. Image source: Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Continues Carr, Its not the video, though, its all of this data being pulled below it. Will there be a significant national security threat with regards to one familys kid, individually? I dont think so. The thing is this is untold thousands of individuals, and data on untold thousands of individuals. And China contains the most sophisticated AI operation for analyzing these things. Its the scope and scale that basically presents the national security threat for all of us.

READ MORE: Lawsuit reveals the dark side of TikTok

To be certain, his problem with the app also extends beyond any mere hypothetical danger connected with US users. Theres also the real perception that TikTok left in the minds of individuals like him that it had been sufficiently walled faraway from its China-based parent entity, ByteDance. Until, that’s, a bombshell Buzzfeed report in June. That report relied on audio from a lot more than 80 TikTok company meetings to say that employees located in China have repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users.

For anybody keeping score, thats the key reason why the Trump administration threatened to ban the app in america. Before coronavirus pandemic, needless to say, meant that other priorities quickly took precedence.

The companys response

Things are much different now.

In June of the year, TikTok policy advisor Albert Calamug tried to allay a few of the myriad security concerns. He offered up a failure of the way the company handles US user data.

The U.S. House of Representatives Chief Administrative Officer has issued a cyber advisory on TikTok, labeling it high-risk with personal info accessed from inside China:

we usually do not recommend the download or usage of this application because of these security and privacy concerns.

Brendan Carr (@BrendanCarrFCC) August 17, 2022

For instance, Calamug explained, the business maintains data centers in both US and Singapore, wherein it stores data linked to US users. TikToks Virginia data center, he continued in an organization post, includes physical and logical safety controls such as for example gated entry points, firewalls, and intrusion detection technologies. Its also vital that you maintain backup data storage locations to protect against catastrophic scenarios where user data could possibly be lost, and our data center in Singapore serves because the backup data storage location for the US users.

For greater than a year, he added, TikTok has been dealing with Oracle to raised safeguard its app, systems, and the security folks user data. Now, TikTok says that 100% folks user traffic has been routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

TikTok in 2022: What changed?

Nevertheless, investigations into problems around TikTok are continuing at the federal level. On multiple fronts, actually.

Besides Carr sounding the alarm being an FCC commissioner? Two US senators have needed an FTC probe of TikTok. Carr also explained that the united states Commerce Dept. has its review thats ongoing. Additionally, theres a so-called CFIUS review run by the united states Treasury Dept. Thats a continuing review, in accordance with Carr, considering foreign investment vis a vis TikTok and related apps.

Outside the US, members of parliament in countries like Australia and the united kingdom have likewise undertaken similar efforts.

This isnt about me or the concerns Ive raised, Carr said. That is concerning the bipartisan and global concern concerning this. I believe its clear that TikTok offers a brief window here before theres concrete government action.

Youve already got things such as the military branches which have banned TikTok from their official government devices. I simply dont observe how you will be half-pregnant with regards to the security concern, that is enough of a problem on top of that it off military devices. It appears hard to summarize that the very same military personnel will be able to wear it their personal phones and become in exactly the same areas because they are when theyre acting within their official capacities.

Other concerns

And new TikTok-related security concerns continue steadily to mount. Once we noted in another piece on Friday, security researcher Felix Krause recently discovered that the in-app browser in TikToks iOS app injects JavaScript code into every website that users visit. Which means the app could monitor every keyboard entry and every tap on the screen.

In accordance with Krause, an app injecting JavaScript right into a website isnt inherently malicious. But even though we realize what an app does, we dont understand how the business uses the info. For example, regarding the TikTok in-app browser, Krause says the code behaves such as a keylogger.

The principle administrative officer of the united states House of Representatives in addition has urged members of Congress to avoid using TikTok.

The TikTok logo, displayed outside a TikTok office in Culver City, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

My mindset is definitely its insufficient to possess ties back to the (Chinese Communist Party), Carr explained. We still have at the FCC dozens upon a large number of entities that people license and authorize which have ties back to communist China. What Ive always said is you will need that, and an advantage factor.

We saw with Huawei, ZTE too little transparency about data flows. Or, theyd represent that data doesnt head to Place X. And wed learn that data does, actually, head to Place X. And I believe that same mindset pertains to TikTok. Its insufficient that the parent company has ties back again to communist China. Its they have masked the info flows back to China for just two years. Were always searching for a plus factor before we step into action.

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