UPDATED 19:53 EST / JANUARY 02 2020

armytictok SECURITY

Amid concerns about links to China, US Army bans use of TikTok

The U.S. Army today banned popular social media app TikTok from mobile devices due to security concerns about the app’s link to China, following in the footsteps of the U.S. Navy that implemented an identical ban last month.

The ban applies to government-issued phones with solders first being advised to uninstall the app in mid-December. The ban does not apply to personal phones.

The move by the Army to ban TikTok has the same genesis as the Navy ban. According to Military.com, both were prompted by a Defense Department Cyber Awareness Message Dec. 16 identifying  TikTok as “having security risks associated with its use.” That guidance recommended that all Defense Department employees should “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.”

As of the time of writing, neither the U.S. Air Force nor Marine Corps is known to have implemented the ban.

The decision by the Army to ban the use of the app is not without some irony as the U.S. Army Recruiting Command had been using the app, complete with an official account, to recruit people to the Army (pictured).

Concerns about TikTok’s Chinese ownership have been ongoing with two U.S. senators calling on the app to be investigated in October. Parent company ByteDance released a transparency report Dec. 30 showing that it had regularly complied with requests from U.S. authorities but had not once shared data with the Chinese government.

Ray Walsh, data privacy advocate at privacy advocacy group ProPrivacy.com, told SiliconANGLE that the Army’s decision is yet another sign of the growing suspicion and mistrust U.S. authorities feel toward the Chinese-developed social media platform.

“TikTok is known to have unsettling privacy features that are hard to shore up properly and some believe the application captures user data and send it back to China,” Walsh said. “For military personnel — who could potentially be placed under surveillance by TikTok on behalf of the Chinese government — the risk of corporate espionage is elevated and the idea that user videos could be harvested, even if they are not posted, is highly concerning.”

Any U.S. citizens whot use TikTok need to be aware of the app’s Chinese roots, he added. “They need to consider carefully where their data is being accumulated, especially considering that TikTok is believed to store and send back user videos made with the app, regardless of whether they are posted or not. Apps of this nature are known to produce a database about users and their interests. In the case of TikTok, that data is being sent back to China — where it is being amassed for potentially nefarious purposes.”

Photo: U.S. Army Recruiting Command

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