U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) called on Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet Inc. and Google CEO Sundar Pichai to remove TikTok from their app stores immediately given its unacceptable risk to U.S. national security. A copy of the letter is below.
How would this play out?
The move would be the most direct method of cutting off the U.S. population from the mobile app, or at least users with a U.S.-based AppleID or Google account. But, it might take some time before completely shutting down the mobile app.
At first, removal of the app from store listings would likely just prevent new installations (or potentially re-downloads from historical purchases available through the App Store or Google Play, as we saw with Fortnite during the Apple and Epic Games dispute).
However, removal could put at risk in-app payments and revenue streams to creators, which would also likely become unavailable to remaining users that have the mobile app installed. I would assume, if they are forced to take action, Google and Apple would have the TikTok developer accounts suspended or shut down, too.
As time goes on, and as the mobile operating systems (iOS and Android) are updated by Apple and Google, the app runs the risk of becoming incompatible as future app updates cannot be delivered.
All of this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of accessing TikTok for U.S.-based users. Why?
It’s easier to still install mobile apps on Android-powered devices, but also arguably a much higher security, privacy, and safety risk given the potential for misuse. With Apple, it’s likely going to be a crackdown on future app developers that try to sneak in a way to still access TikTok.
Also, it’s unlikely we’d ever see the U.S. make a move that would shut off access to TikTok through a web browser. It would take more support and development work from TikTok if they decided to move in this direction and support a web experience; however, it’s not entirely impossible.
The question remains: will advertisers still do business with the company if these more robust bans start taking effect? If not, what will the backlash be for still being involved with the company?
“Like most social media platforms, TikTok collects vast and sophisticated data from its users, including faceprints and voiceprints. Unlike most social media platforms, TikTok poses a unique concern because Chinese law obligates ByteDance, its Beijing-based parent company, to ‘support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work,’” wrote Bennet.
Read the full press release.