UPDATED 20:36 EDT / DECEMBER 22 2019

SECURITY

Calling TikTok a ‘cybersecurity threat,’ US Navy bans popular social media app

The U.S. Navy has banned the popular social media app TikTok from mobile devices over increasing concerns that the Chinese-owned app presents a security risk.

The ban, issued during last week, applies to all Navy-issued mobile devices. Anyone who does not remove the app will be banned from accessing the Navy Marine Corps intranet. A bulletin to Navy staff described the app as a “cybersecurity threat” and asked that troops take action to “safeguard their personal information.”

Concerns over TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, first started making headlines in October when two U.S. Senators called on the app to be investigated by intelligence officials for potentially harmful data collection. Despite there seemingly being no hard evidence that TikTok is being used for nefarious data-collecting or other purposes, concerns persisted that the app is Chinese-owned and that data from the app may go back to servers in China.

In November U.S. Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill aimed at stemming the flow of American data to China and other countries that he said threaten America’s national security. Hawley singled out TikTok when introducing the bill.

“Chinese companies with vast amounts of personal data on Americans are required by Chinese law to provide that data to Chinese intelligence services,” Hawley said. “If your child uses TikTok, there’s a chance the Chinese Communist Party knows where they are, what they look like, what their voices sound like, and what they’re watching. That’s a feature TikTok doesn’t advertise.”

TikTok has long denied the allegations, saying that none of the data it collects is stored in China and that data is not subject to Chinese law.

Responding to the ongoing criticism, ByteDance said Nov. 27 that it was moving to separate TikTok from the other parts of its business to appease claims that the data it collects on U.S. citizens may end up in the hands of the Chinese government.

In any case, TikTok itself has been a standout success in an already crowded social media marketplace. As of September the app passed 500 million active users and was closing in on 1.5 billion downloads.

Image: TikTok

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