Two months after senior lawmakers asked US intelligence officials to probe if TikTok poses national security threat, the US Army has banned its personnel from using the short video app on official phones. The development is a big reversal of the army's policy of using the app to attract young recruits.
In October, Senators Tom Cotton and Chuck Schumer called for a security review of the video app owned by Beijing-based ByteDance. The latest ban was reported by Military.com on Sunday. CNN said the army has asked personnel to uninstall TikTok to circumvent any exposure of personal information.
Uninstall TikTok on government phones
"The message directs appropriate action for employees to take in order to safeguard their personal information. The guidance is 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," Army spokesperson Lt. Col Robin L. Ochoa told the channel on Monday. He said a Cyber Awareness Message that was sent out on 16 December had identified TikTok as having potential security risks associated with its use.
The army had issued the directive asking staff to uninstall TikTok on government phones as early as in mid-December. This followed a similar action by the US Navy, which banned the use of TiKTok on official phones.
However, service personnel cannot be prohibited from using TikTok on their personal device. The army has asked staff to exercise caution if they receive random or unfamiliar text messages.
Huawei in the crosshairs
TikTok ban is the latest similar action from the US with respect to Chinese technology companies. Tech major Huawei has been in the crosshairs of the Trump administration for a long while. President Donald Trump slapped sanctions on the wireless company, classifying it as a national security threat. The administration says Huawei has close ties to the Chinese government and military apparatus.
TikTok, which became an instant global sensation, was downloaded more than 750 million times in the past year. The US lawmakers said in October that TikTok could be forced to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
TikTok had denied the allegations. "Our data centers are located entirely outside of China, and none of our data is subject to Chinese law ... Further, we have a dedicated technical team focused on adhering to robust cybersecurity policies, and data privacy and security practices," the company said in a statement.