The US Army has banned the use of the popular TikTok app on the phones used by its personnel for security reasons.
TikTok is a social media app developed by the Chinese firm ByteDance, that lets the users to create and share short videos. It has more than 1.3 billion installs worldwide. The free accounts are public by default and only subscribers are able to restrict the access to the accounts’ content.
This app has come under inspection in the US and other countries for its alleged link with the Government of Beijing.
According to an US Army spokeswoman, Lt Col Robin Ochoa, the app is considered a cyber threat and that they would not allow it on government phone.
In October, both Democratic and Republican senators called for an investigation by intelligence agencies into the app, and in December the US Navy announced a similar decision.
By mid-December, the Army started advising soldiers to stop using TikToK on all government-owned phones. The U.S. Navy also recently introduced similar guidance, prohibiting the use of TiKTok on government phones.
The policy reversal on TikTok comes after the release of a Dec. 16 Defense Department Cyber Awareness Message that identified TikTok as having potential security risks associated with its use.
The military also encourages its personnel to avoid the usage of this app on their private mobile phones as well.
The experts think that the app can be used for intelligence gathering on US citizens and for this reason it represents a threat to homeland security.
Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton stated that TikTok could also be used for a foreign-influence campaign.
However, the company behind TikTok attempted to reassure the US authorities explaining that all US user data are located outside China, and not subject to Chinese law.
This week TikTok released its first-ever transparency report, which includes data access requests from different countries. The top information requests came from India (107 requests) the United States (79), Japan (35), Germany (12) and France (8) and it was strange that China was absent.
The reports also indicates that top requests for content removal came from India (11), United States (6) and Japan (3).