The United States Marine Corps has become the latest branch of the military to ban its soldiers from using TikTok due to concerns that the Chinese-owned app could be collecting Americans’ personal data.
‘This decision is consistent with our efforts to proactively address existing and emerging threats as we secure and defend our network,’ Captain Hector Alejandro of the Marine Forces Cyberspace Command told TMZ.
Earlier this week, it was announced that the Army has banned soldiers from using TikTok.
The Army announced that the app, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, was no longer allowed on government phones on Monday because it is considered a cyber threat.
The United States Marine Corps is barrings its soldiers from using the popular social media app TikTok. Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force are seen above during drills with Japanese and South Korean troops in Pohang, South Korea, in April 2013
Earlier this week, the US Army banned soldiers from the app amid concerns that the Chinese-owned program could be collecting American users’ personal data (file photo). ByteDance is the Chinese parent company which owns TikTok
Army recruiters began using TikTok last year as a means to reach young people and were still using it as of two months ago, despite calls from lawmakers to conduct a national security review.
The policy reversal was prompted by a December 16 Defense Department Cyber Awareness Message which identified TikTok as ‘having potential security risks associated with its use’.
The message directed Defense Department employees to uninstall TikTok to avoid exposure of personal information and to ‘be wary of applications you download, monitor your phones for unusual and unsolicited texts etc’.
The Navy implemented a similar ban in mid-December, warning sailors that they would be blocked from the Navy intranet if they failed to remove the app from their government-issued phones.
It is unclear whether the Air Force has followed suit.
Over the past two years, TikTok has become a viral phenomenon among American teens, allowing users to create minute-long videos set to catchy music. It has been downloaded more than 750 million times in the last year, far surpassing apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Sens Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) called for the intelligence community to evaluate TikTok’s national security risks to determine whether it could be used to spy on US citizens in October.
In a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, the lawmakers said that because ByteDance is based in China, TikTok could be forced to ‘to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party’.
TikTok responded by saying that it stores all US user data in the United States and backs it up in Singapore.
‘Our data centers are located entirely outside of China, and none of our data is subject to Chinese law,’ the company said in a statement.
‘Further, we have a dedicated technical team focused on adhering to robust cybersecurity policies, and data privacy and security practices.’
TikTok has become a viral phenomenon among American teens, allowing users to create minute-long videos set to catchy music (file photo)
New York Sen Chuck Schumer (left) and Arkansas Sen Tom Cotton (right) called for the intelligence community to evaluate TikTok’s national security risks in October
In November, TikTok executives refused to appear before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the tech industries relationship to China, furthering lawmakers’ concerns.
The company said in a statement at the time: ‘Unfortunately, on short notice we were unable to provide a witness who would be able to contribute to a substantive discussion.
‘We remain committed to working productively with Congress as it looks at how to secure the data of American users, protect their privacy, promote free expression, ensure competition and choice among internet platforms, and preserve US national security interests.’
Sen Cotton responded with a statement saying that TikTok’s refusal ‘underscores concerns that the company is beholden to the Chinese Communist Party and will not secure the rights and privacy of its American users’.
In February, TikTok was hit with a $5.7million fine over allegations that it illegally collected personal data from children under 13.
WHAT IS TIKTOK?
TikTok is a Chinese social media app where users can live stream, create short videos and music videos and Gifs with a host of functions.
TikTok’s tagline is ‘Make every second count’.
It was the most downloaded app in the US in 2018 and the world’s fourth most downloaded app in 2018, ahead of Instagram and Snapchat.
TikTok is known in China as Douyin where it was launched in 2016 and then made more widely available around the world in 2017.
Douyin is still the version of the app used in China, available to download separately to TikTok.
Last year, the app was merged with popular music video lip-syncing app Musical.ly, also with headquarters in China.
Most children use the app to film themselves lip-syncing to chart hits.
It offers users a raft if colourful modification and editing tools including overlaying music, sound, animated stickers, filters and augmented reality (AR) for creating short videos.
The Beijing based social network has more than 500 million active users and the company is now worth more than $75 billion (£58 billion).