The United States Army has now banned soldiers from using social media app TikTok on government-owned phones a few days after the Navy decided to ban the app on government phones. This is a response to fears that the app, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, could pose a cybersecurity and a national security threat by influencing or spying on Americans.
The Defense Department advised 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 Army and Navy have advised people to follow the department’s warning. Approximately 23,000 Pentagon employees were told to uninstall the app over security concerns. The government fears it could expose personally identifiable information to “unwanted actors.” Additionally, “Uninstalling TikTok ‘will not prevent already potentially compromised information from propagating, but it could keep additional information from being collected,’ the agency told military officials, according to a statement from a Defense Department spokesman.”
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is carefully examining TikTok to determine if the “Chinese government can collect users’ data or control the content that’s shared. Senator Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) pointed to the potential for TikTok to be used in election meddling and to silence Hong Kong protesters.” TikTok stated it has not and will not remove content if asked by the Chinese government. This comes after former TikTok employees stated that it previously “restricted videos in alignment with Chinese rules on acceptable speech.” The company claims to store American users’ data in Virginia and does not use Beijing’s guidelines in the United States.
Before the ban, the Army used TikTok to recruit members. The United States is also investigating ByteDance’s $1 billion acquisition of U.S.-based Musical.ly. The investigation is also looking at political content censorship and personal data storage.