The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday urged the U.S. government to ban the social media platform TikTok over how the China-based app handles American users' data.
Brendan Carr, the leader of the five-seat FCC board, told Axios the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) should ban the platform over its failure to secure users' data.
"I don't believe there is a path forward for anything other than a ban," Carr said.
He has previously spoken out about Chinese telecom companies, including Huawei and TikTok's Chinese owner ByteDance.
Two years ago, the FCC adopted rules that require U.S. telecom carriers to remove and replace equipment produced by Huawei, ZTE, and other entities because they pose an unacceptable national security risk.
Although the FCC has no authority to regulate TikTok, Congress passed a bill in 2021 giving the commission the jurisdiction to secure American telecommunications from foreign threats.
Carr's admonition comes as TikTok is negotiating with CFIUS, a U.S. government committee that handles national security reviews of deals with foreign companies. Reportedly at the center of the talks is whether the platform will be still allowed to operate in the U.S. if its current owner ByteDance sells the social media platform to an American company.
TikTok fired back, arguing Carr has no say in the talks with CFIUS over the app.
"Commissioner Carr has no role in the confidential discussions with the U.S. government related to TikTok and appears to be expressing views independent of his role as an FCC commissioner," Brooke Oberwetter, a TikTok spokesperson, said in a statement to ABC News.
"We are confident that we are on a path to reaching an agreement with the U.S. Government that will satisfy all reasonable national security concerns," Oberwetter added.
The Biden administration and TikTok have outlined a preliminary deal, but it has not been finalized, The New York Times reported in September. The outlet noted the Justice Department is leading the talks, but Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco was concerned the current terms were not tough enough on China.
Recent reporting by news outlets has also questioned the security of U.S. user data.
Last month, Forbes reported ByteDance planned to use the TikTok app to monitor the personal location of some specific American citizens.
In July, Buzzfeed reported four former employees had come forward, claiming ByteDance had used a now-defunct news app to push pro-China messages to Americans. ByteDance denounced the reports, calling them "false and ridiculous."
TikTok maintains it has never shared data with the Chinese government and insists the information of American users is secure, being handled only by U.S.-based teams.
Then in June, Buzzfeed got access to a collection of leaked tapes from internal meetings at TikTok, and they told a completely different story.
"They had people inside TikTok saying, 'Everything is seen in China'. They had a master admin person who, again, was disclosing that there was almost no checks on what could go back there," Carr told CBN News in a report in July.
As CBN News has reported, TikTok is the most downloaded app in the world. As of Oct. 26, the app has more than 138 million active users in the U.S.
In order to operate successfully, TikTok collects a lot of data. It tracks account information, search history, and any content created through the platform, along with users' locations and behavioral information.
Companies like Facebook and Google collect similar data, but there's one major difference: TikTok is based in China and must follow the laws of the communist regime.
"China has a national security law that compels every entity within its jurisdiction to aid its espionage and what they view as their national security efforts," Carr said.
This means Chinese companies are required to make all data they collect available to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with no exceptions.
Carr told CBN News that includes all the personal information TikTok's been gathering on millions of Americans.
"At the FCC, we've also taken a look at other entities beholden to the CCP, whether it's Huawei, ZTE, China Mobile, and we see just a history of nefarious conduct, from business industrial espionage to blackmail. There's a lot of reasons to be concerned, not about the videos, but the underlying data going back en masse to China," he explained.
2 Years Ago, President Trump Threatened to Shutdown TikTok: Now Democrat Senator Says He Was Right
An investigation into the national security implications of TikTok was first launched by the U.S. Treasury Department back in 2019. Then in 2020, President Donald Trump threatened to ban the entertainment platform if it didn't sell itself to a U.S. company. The CFIUS had set deadlines for TikTok to divest its U.S. operations, but such a sale never happened.
"This is not something you would normally hear me say, but Donald Trump was right on TikTok years ago," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) told The Sydney Morning Herald last week. "If your country uses Huawei, if your kids are on TikTok … the ability for China to have undue influence is a much greater challenge and a much more immediate threat than any kind of actual, armed conflict."