Citing a security threat, the US Army has banned the use of the popular short video app TikTok by its soldiers. Earlier in December, the US Navy banned the use of TikTok on government-issued mobile devices because of cybersecurity concerns.
Military.com, which was the first to report the change in the US Army’s policy, said that the Army started advising soldiers to stop using TikTok on government-owned phones from mid-December onward. Previously, recruiters from the US Army were using the popular app to reach out to potential recruits.
The report also mentions a Defense Department Cyber Awareness Message that identified “TikTok as having potential security risks associated with its use”, said the report. The message directed Defense Department employees to “be wary of applications you download, monitor your phones for unusual and unsolicited texts etc., and delete them immediately and uninstall TikTok to circumvent any exposure of personal information.”
However, employees can still use TikTok on their personal mobile phones.
What are the security concerns over using Tik Tok?
In November, the US government started investigating the Beijing-based TikTok owner ByteDance’s acquisition of the social media app Musical.ly that was acquired for over $1 billion. Security concerns were articulated by US lawmakers as TikTok started to gain popularity among American teenagers and amid growing trade tensions between the US and China.
In October, two members of Congress including Senate Minority Leader Charles E Schumer, asked US intelligence officers to start investigating the app for national security concerns. One of the central fears that has given rise to these concerns is the fact that China may be able to gain access to American users’ personal data using the app, thereby compromising national security.
What is TikTok’s position?
In a blog post published on November 5, 2019, TikTok’s US General Manager Vanessa Pappas said: “We know that our users want to feel secure and informed when it comes to handling their data… We store all US user data in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore. TikTok’s data centres are located entirely outside of China. Further, we have a dedicated technical team focused on adhering to robust cybersecurity policies, and data privacy and security practices.”
Pappas also maintains that TikTok’s US-based team moderates content for their adherence to US policies, and that content that violates the app’s rules, such as pornography, spam or violence, is removed.
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