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FCC Official Wants App Stores to Cancel TikTok. That’s Unlikely

·2-min read

(Bloomberg) -- A member of the US Federal Communications Commission will have a tough time getting Apple Inc. and Google to remove the popular Chinese-owned video app TikTok from their app stores.

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The FCC doesn’t regulate the stores and Brendan Carr is a Republican on the agency controlled by Democrats. Its agenda is set by Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who was appointed by President Joe Biden.

In a letter to Apple and Google that was disclosed Tuesday, Carr called TikTok “a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.” He called on the companies to take the app out of their stores.

The FCC didn’t immediately reply to a request to comment. TikTok, Apple and Alphabet Inc.’s Google declined to comment.

TikTok has been under pressure from US officials over whether Americans’ private data gathered through the app could be handed over to the authoritarian regime in China -- something TikTok has said it would never do.

“What TikTok’s been trying to do is get themselves on the right side of the US government,” said Rick Sofield, a Washington-based partner at Vinson & Elkins LLP and former Justice Department official. “The government is still trying to figure out what to do.”

Biden last year told the Commerce Department to analyze TikTok. That review continues and national security officials also are examining the app, including its recent deal to have Oracle Corp. house data from US citizens, Sofield said in an interview.

Carr’s letter is among “signals from the US government that they’re not satisfied,” Sofield said.

Former President Donald Trump tried to ban the app and force parent ByteDance Ltd. to sell TikTok’s US business over what he claimed were security risks. The action was challenged in court and Biden revoked Trump’s ban in June 2021.

In the US, TikTok has been installed 321.6 million times, and generated $694.3 million in consumer spending, which may translate to about $208.3 million in fees for the Apple and Google app stores, according to SensorTower, which analyzes app growth.

(Updates with analyst comment in sixth paragraph.)

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