TikTok Poses Threat to Every American User: FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr

By Hannah Ng
Hannah Ng
Hannah Ng
Hannah Ng is a reporter covering U.S. and China news. She holds a master's degree in international and development economics from the University of Applied Science Berlin.
and David Zhang
David Zhang
David Zhang
David Zhang is the host of China Insider on EpochTV. He is currently based in New York and Washington DC covering China-related news. He focuses on expert interviews and news commentary on China affairs, especially issues regarding the U.S.–China relationship.
July 12, 2022Updated: July 14, 2022

A lot of people view the Chinese app TikTok as a platform for sharing funny videos, but it poses a data security risk, according to Brendan Carr, a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“They just see TikTok for what it appears to be on the surface, but that’s just the sheep’s clothing,” Carr recently told Epoch TV’s “China Insider.”

“If you look beneath it, there’s an awful lot of data that’s being pulled from your device, and apparently sent back to China. Underneath that, it’s pulling biometrics, including face prints and voice prints, keystroke patterns and rhythms, search and browsing history, location information.”

Carr referred to a June BuzzFeed report based on leaked audio from 80 TikTok internal meetings that revealed that engineers in China had repeatedly accessed U.S. data. U.S. user data flowing back to the Chinese regime is concerning, according to the commissioner.

“Once data hits China, they have a national security law there that compels all of those entities there to assist them in espionage activity,” he said.

TikTok has repeatedly denied that the Chinese regime can access users’ data.

Inside TikTok Creator's Lab Event
Signage is displayed at the TikTok Creator’s Lab 2019 event hosted by Bytedance in Tokyo on Feb. 16, 2019. (Shiho Fukada/Bloomberg)

Carr said China runs the world’s most sophisticated data analytics operation, meaning that “all sorts of nefarious conduct” could take place should the communist country get its hands on the sensitive data of millions of app users.

“They have a history of business and industrial espionage, blackmail. And so the concern is really when you’re taking that much data on that many international users … that’s really where the threat vector begins,” he said.

Carr also raised concerns about the content transmitted on the Chinese video app.

“Engineers in Beijing are working on the algorithms very actively … deciding what is displayed to users in the U.S. and globally,” he said. “Whether it’s a foreign influence campaign or other content, it’s noteworthy that China does not allow Tik Tok inside of China, but yet they allow these types of influence campaigns to take place globally.”

Countering the Threat

Given that the Chinese app poses an espionage risk, Carr called for a concerted effort to counter this threat.

“We need to go to all fronts there,” he said, referring to a recent request by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to the Federal Trade Commission, urging it to formally investigate the relationship between the Chinese regime and ByteDance, TikTok’s Beijing-based owner.

“The Federal Trade Commission should take up that bipartisan call for a swift investigation. We can’t afford a year-long process. And I’d be encouraged and happy to have Congress step in as well.

“We’ve engaged in a pretty concerted effort to look at entities tied to CCP. … I think TikTok is the next one that we should be focusing on.”

TikTok didn’t return a request from The Epoch Times for comment.

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