Following guidance from the Defense Department, the Army has banned the short form video app TikTok from all government-owned phones. Lt. Col. Crystal X. Boring, a public affairs officer for the Army, said the Office of the Secretary of Defense issued guidance that TikTok is a potential security risk. The Defense Information Systems Agency recommended that all employees of the Defense Department not use the Chinese-owned app.
TikTok, known in China as Douyin, is a social media app that allows users to live stream, as well as create short videos, music videos, and Gifs with a host of functions. Over the past two years, TikTok has become a viral phenomenon among American teens, becoming the most downloaded app in the U.S. in 2018. The social network now has more than 500 million active users around the world and the company is worth more than $75 billion.
U.S. lawmakers have expressed concerns that the Chinese-owned video app collects user’s personal data and that TikTok’s Beijing-based owner ByteDance could be forced to cooperate with the intelligence arm of the Chinese Communist Party. All TikTok accounts are public by default, though subscribers have the ability to restrict this. TikTok said recently that all U.S. user data was located outside China in the United States and Singapore, and thus is not subject to Chinese law. TikTok also claimed to have hired an auditing company to make sure users’ data is not sent to China using connected third-party apps.
In October, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, sent a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire asking for an assessment of TikTok and other China-based companies for potential security risks. By November, the government had opened a security risk assessment of TikTok.
In mid-December, the Navy issued a ban on the app, warning sailors that they would be blocked from the Navy intranet if they failed to remove the app from their government-issued phones. It was not immediately clear whether the Marine Corps or the Air Force had also banned the app.