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Army bans Chinese TikTok app, following Pentagon advice

A man uses a smartphone. (Free-Photos, Pixabay/Released)
December 30, 2019

The U.S. Army has followed the U.S. Navy in banning its service members from using the popular TikTok video-sharing social media app on Monday.

The Army decision follows advice from the Department of Defense, which has identified the Chinese-owned app as a security risk, Military.com reported.

It is considered a cyber threat,” Lt. Col. Robin Ochoa, an Army spokeswoman, said. “We do not allow it on government phones.”

Previously the TikTok app, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has been used by Army recruiters as a tool to reach out to younger Generation Z recruits.

The app allows users to share short, often-times edited videos. The app developers have said they don’t send any user-collected data to China.

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The Pentagon review of the phone app followed bipartisan requests by Sen. Tom Cotton R-Arkansas, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York in October, to have U.S. intelligence officials determine whether TikTok poses a national security threat.

The government began its initial review of the app through an investigation of Musical.ly in November, according to Reuters. Musical.ly was the U.S. company that became the TikTok app before it was bought out by ByteDance.

Ochoa said the Army began advising soldiers to stop using the app on any government-owned phones.

The Navy decision, just over a week prior to the Army’s own, also called on sailors to remove the app from any government-issued smartphones and tablets and to not download the app on any new government devices.

The services reportedly cannot enforce the same type of ban on service members’ personal devices.

The Pentagon guidance advises all 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.”

The Pentagon has, in the past, provided guidance on other social media platforms, advising personnel to approach any social platform with caution.

Personnel are also reportedly required to undergo annual training to maintain awareness of cybersecurity risks, like those potentially posed by TikTok.

According to Reuters, the Navy’s decision on TikTok includes direction for Marine personnel.

Air Force Lt. Col. Uriah Orland also warned, “The threats posed by social media are not unique to TikTok (though they may certainly be greater on that platform), and DoD personnel must be cautious when making any public or social media post.”