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#cybersecurity | hacker | Army joins Navy in banning TikTok


The U.S. Army this week joined the Navy in
banning soldiers from using TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned video app marred
by troublesome data handling practices, pegging it as a national security risk.

“The U.S. Army’s decision to ban TikTok is yet another sign of the growing
suspicion and mistrust U.S. authorities feel towards the Chinese-developed
social media platform,” said Ray
Walsh, data privacy advocate at ProPrivacy.com.

“It is considered a cyber threat,”
a Military.com report
cited Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Robin Ochoa as saying. “We do not allow it
on government phones.”

But the report pointed out that until recently
the Army used the social media app as a recruitment tool. The shift in policy
follows a Defense Department Cyber Awareness Message on December 16 that pegged
“TikTok as having potential security risks associated with its use” and
cautioning employees to be mindful of downloadable apps, monitoring “phones for
unusual and unsolicited texts etc.” Personnel we’re instructed to “delete them
immediately and uninstall TikTok to circumvent any exposure of personal
information.”

TikTok has been under intense scrutiny with Sen.
Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and other lawmakers in a letter
to Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire expressing concern that the
app’s China-based patent, ByteDance, could be pressured “to support and
cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist
Party.”

The company has spurned those accusations. But early in 2019, the
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said Musical.ly, TikTok’s earlier iteration,
illegally gathered and used children’s personal data, and levied a $5.7million fine on the app for violating
the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The
operators of Musical.ly, which allows users to make and share short, lip-synced
videos, “knew many children were using the app but they still failed to seek
parental consent before collecting names, email addresses, and other personal
information from users under the age of 13,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a release announcing the fine, the largest
yet under COPPA. “This record penalty should be a reminder to all online
services and websites that target children: We take enforcement of COPPA very
seriously, and we will not tolerate companies that flagrantly ignore the law.”

And in a lawsuit filed
by a college student in the Northern District of California in early December, TikTok
was accused of secretly transferring user data to China without obtaining
consent.

Misty Hong claimed the viral video service culled off her
personal videos and information, then funneled it to servers in China.

“TikTok is
known to have unsettling privacy features that are hard to shore up properly,
and some believe the application captures user data and send it back to China,”
said Walsh. “For military personnel – who could potentially be placed under
surveillance by TikTok on behalf of
the Chinese government – the risk of corporate espionage is elevated and the
idea that user videos could be harvested, even if they are not posted, is
highly concerning.”



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