US Army bans soldiers from using Tik Tok over security worries

Dec 31, 2019, 7:09 AM
The US Army has banned the use of the hugely popular short video app TikTok by its soldiers, callin...
The US Army has banned the use of the hugely popular short video app TikTok by its soldiers, calling it a security threat. Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

(CNN) — The US Army has banned the use of the hugely popular short video app TikTok by its soldiers, calling it a security threat.

The Army has joined the Navy in barring the use of the app on government-owned phones, following bipartisan calls from lawmakers for regulators and the intelligence community to determine whether the Chinese-owned app presents a threat to national security and could be used to collect American citizens’ personal data. was the first to report on the decision.

“There was a Cyber Awareness Message sent out on 16 December identifies TikTok as having potential security risks associated with its use,” Army spokesperson Lt. Col Robin L. Ochoa told CNN on Monday night. “The message directs appropriate action for employees to take in order to safeguard their personal information. The guidance is 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.”

Reuters reported that the Navy also made a similar decision in mid-December, telling sailors that anyone who hadn’t removed the app from their government-issued phone would be banned from the Navy intranet.

TikTok is not the only Chinese tech giant to raise US suspicions — wireless company Huawei has earned the criticism of the Trump administration, which has campaigned worldwide against the use of Huawei equipment, citing the company’s ties to Beijing. But Huawei isn’t the viral phenomenon that TikTok has become, capturing millions of teens and adults with its ability to create and share short videos set to catchy music.

The two-year-old app has been downloaded over 750 million times in the past year, according to The New York Times, citing figures from the app analytics firm Sensor Tower. That’s tens of millions more downloads than for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat over the same period. And it reflects a 33% jump in downloads of TikTok compared to the year prior, Sensor Tower told CNN in November.

Sens. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, called on the US intelligence community to assess TikTok’s national security risks in October, saying the app could be used to spy on US citizens. Other lawmakers, including Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, have raised concerns that TikTok has censored Hong Kong-related content.

The lawmakers argued that because TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is based in China, TikTok could be forced “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.” The senators added in their October letter to the acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire that “there is no legal mechanism for Chinese companies to appeal if they disagree with a request.”

TikTok responded with a statement, 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 at the time. “Further, we have a dedicated technical team focused on adhering to robust cybersecurity policies, and data privacy and security practices.”

TikTok further riled lawmakers in November, when executives from the company refused to appear before a congressional committee examining the tech industry’s relationship to China.

After being called to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s crime and terrorism panel, TikTok said in a statement that “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,” the company statement said.

The TikTok refusal “only underscores Senator Cotton’s concerns that the company is beholden to the Chinese Communist Party and will not secure the rights and privacy of its American users,” the Arkansas Republican’s office said in a statement.

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, a major tech critic who was leading the hearing, called TikTok’s decision a “mistake,” and tweeted an invitation to the company to “come and testify tomorrow about your ties to Communist Chinese Party. I’ll save a place for you.”

Hawley has fretted over what he has said is a willingness by tech companies to cooperate “with foreign adversaries … leaving our data vulnerable to malevolent actors.”

Earlier in the year, TikTok agreed to pay a $5.7 million fine in the US to settle allegations it illegally collected personal information from children under the age of 13, including names, email addresses and their locations.

The US Federal Trade Commission said in a February 27th statement that the TikTok fine set a record for a child privacy case. The fine related to, a video-sharing app that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance bought in 2017 and merged with TikTok in August.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has launched a national security review of ByteDance’s $1 billion purchase of in November, according to Reuters.

™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

A woman wearing white sitting in front of a light box...
Michelle Lee

Winter blues: light therapy and lifestyle changes can help

SALT LAKE CITY – With the chilly weather and the shorter days, many people are prone to experience the winter blues. In the latest Let’s Get Moving with Maria podcast episode, host Maria Shilaos spoke with Dr. Jason Hunziker from the Huntsman Mental Health Institute about ways people can overcome the winter blues. Seasonal depression […]
1 day ago
little cottonwood canyon pictured, avalanche risk there is high...
Devin Oldroyd

Backcountry skier dead after fatal fall in Little Cottonwood Canyon

A backcountry skier is dead after "tumbling a significant distance," according to the Unified Police Department. The incident occurred near Lisa Falls.
1 day ago
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 03: Grammy trophies sit in the press room during the 64th Annual GRAMMY A...
Marianne Garvey, CNN

How to watch the 2023 Grammy Awards: Time, channels and more

The biggest night in music is here with the 65th Grammy Awards on Sunday. If you want to see Harry Styles, Lizzo and more perform, here's how to tune in.
1 day ago
SLCPD cruiser...
Chandler Holt

SLCPD officer witnesses wrong-way drunk driver crash into embankment

At around 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning, an SLCPD officer witnessed a 2009 black Ford F-150 traveling at a high rate of speed in the wrong lane. 
1 day ago
This photo purports to show the suspected Chinese balloon flying over Mills River, North Carolina, ...
Heather Chen and Wayne Chang, CNN

China says it ‘reserves the right’ to deal with ‘similar situations’ after US shoot down suspected spy balloon

China says it "reserves the right" to deal with "similar situations" following the United States' decision to shoot down its high-altitude balloon.
1 day ago
In the golden age of space exploration we live in, cosmic revelations seem to occur more frequently...
Ashley Strickland, CNN

Cosmic seaplanes and self-growing bricks could help us explore other worlds

In the golden age of space exploration we live in, cosmic revelations seem to occur more frequently than ever before.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
US Army bans soldiers from using Tik Tok over security worries