US banking giant Wells Fargo has told staff to delete TikTok from their phones after Amazon banned then unbanned its employees from using the video app.
Earlier this week, the bank sent a note to employees who had installed TikTok on company-owned phones telling them to remove the app immediately.
Wells Fargo cited ‘concerns about TikTok’s privacy and security controls and practices, and because corporate-owned devices should be used for company business only’ in a statement released this week.
A spokesman for TikTok said it was in contact with the US bank to ‘let them know about the actions we have taken to protect data security for our users’.
It follows Amazon’s initial move to prohibit its employees from using the Chinese app on their mobile devices before reversing its ban hours later.
Although both Amazon and Wells Fargo have not said why they chose to ban the app, the move comes amid heightened tensions between China and the US as Beijing faces criticism for its handling of the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The Chinese government has also come under fire from Western countries for imposing a draconian national security law in Hong Kong which outlaws secession, subversion and domestic collusion with foreign governments.
It is suspected that Amazon and Wells Fargo are worried that TikTok, a Chinese company, could share data with the Chinese government.
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US banking giant Wells Fargo has told staff to delete TikTok from their phones after Amazon banned then unbanned its employees from using the video app
TikTok allows its users to publish short-form mobile videos and showcase their creativity to the app’s 800 million members. The news comes after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US was ‘looking into’ banning TikTok because it poses a threat to national security
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.
In 2019, it became the second-most downloaded app globally behind Whatsapp.
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.
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).
An internal email sent by Amazon bosses yesterday told employees to get rid of TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese company, citing ‘security risks’.
But within five hours, the US giant backtracked and said the email had been ‘sent in error’, adding there was ‘no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok’.
Spokeswoman Jaci Anderson declined to answer questions about what caused the confounding turnaround or error.
It was also unclear if the email was sent to all employees at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, or just a select group.
One person familiar with the matter said senior Amazon executives were unaware of the request to delete TikTok from employee devices.
The ban was reversed after TikTok and Amazon representatives discussed the matter, according to an email sent to TikTok employees.
A TikTok spokesman told DailyMail.com in an email: ‘User security is of the utmost importance to TikTok – we are fully committed to respecting the privacy of our users.’
‘While Amazon did not communicate to us before sending their email, and we still do not understand their concerns, we welcome a dialogue so we can address any issues they may have and enable their team to continue participating in our community.’
‘We’re proud that tens of millions of Americans turn to TikTok for entertainment, inspiration, and connection, including many of the Amazon employees and contractors who have been on the frontlines of this pandemic.’
DailyMail.com has yet to receive a response from Amazon.
The note is said to have been sent to all of Amazon’s staff, which must delete the app by Friday in order to continue access to their emails.
The Chinese ownership of TikTok, among the fastest growing digital platforms ever, has come under heavy scrutiny on issues including their handling of user data. India banned TikTok and other Chinese apps in June.
The company has said user data is stored in the United States with a backup copy in Singapore. One person familiar with the matter said TikTok’s user data is primarily stored in the Google Cloud in its Virginia-based data center.
Speculating on the Amazon ban and subsequent U-turn, FT technology correspondent Dave Lee told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme that Amazon could have come under pressure to reverse its decision.
A memo surfaced online that requested ‘all staff’ remove the app from mobile devices with access to Amazon emails by July 10. An Amazon spokesman said the memo was ‘sent in error’
The note is said to have been sent to all of Amazon’s staff, which must delete the app by Friday in order to continue access to their emails
China is top of the US list of most dangerous military rivals – taking a step ahead of Russia, defense chief warns
The US defense secretary has disclosed that China is top of the country’s list of most dangerous military rivals.
Mark Esper told military chiefs the US needed to match Beijing’s capabilities by recalibrating training and operations.
In a message to Pentagon staff marking his first year in the role, he said the US must make China ‘the pacing threat in all our schools, programmes and training’, according to The Times .
‘We are now in an era of great power competition and China, then Russia , constitute our top strategic competitors,’ he added.
It comes two years after the national defense strategy delivered by James Mattis, his predecessor, said China and Russia were both equally ‘great power rivals’ to the US.
In May, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said the US had pushed relations with China to ‘the brink of a new Cold War’.
He said: ‘There was certainly a lot of confusion over this email being sent out early morning for most Amazon employees over in Seattle.
‘And then it was a few hours of confusion, people wondering why this might have happened, people wondering whether it was every single Amazon employee or just a select group.
‘I think another possibility may be that Amazon was considering making this move. I think it’s interesting that the email says ‘by the 10th of July’ and the email arrived on the tenth of July. I wonder if there’s a bit of confusion here within Amazon’.
Asked if TikTok is unsafe, Lee said: ‘When I speak to security experts about the TikTok app they say yes there is concerns about data gathering, there were reports recently about how TikTok would monitor what was on your phone’s clipboard, i.e. things that you copy on your phone to paste into something else.
‘But then those same security experts will say they had the same concerns about Facebook and Twitter and other social networks that aren’t Chinese-owned. I think the fact that there are security concerns about the influence of Beijing on how TikTok might conduct itself in the US, that seems to be something many security analysts agree with.
‘But TikTok have constantly said ‘we are distinct from Byte Dance in China’ in terms of how we make our decisions, particularly around data gathering and censorship issues.
‘And in order to press that fact they have recently hired a former executive from Disney to become the TikTok CEO in the US. They are very very keen to try and separate themselves from their owners but of course but in reality that is just not going to be possible.’
Amazon may have been concerned about a Chinese-owned app’s access to employee data because the US government says China regularly steals US intellectual property, said Susan Ariel Aaronson, a professor at George Washington University and a data governance and national-security expert.
Part of Amazon’s motivation with the ban, now apparently reversed, may also have been political, Aaronson said, since Amazon ‘doesn’t want to alienate the Trump administration.’
Amazon may have been concerned about a Chinese-owned app’s access to employee data because the US government says China regularly steals US intellectual property, said Susan Ariel Aaronson, a professor at George Washington University and a data governance and national-security expert (pictured, Donald Trump with Xi Jinping at the G20, June 2019)
Seattle-based Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, are frequent targets of Trump. Bezos personally owns The Washington Post, which Trump has called ‘fake news.’
Last year, Amazon sued the US government, saying that Trump’s ‘personal vendetta’ against Amazon, Bezos and the Post led it to lose a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the Pentagon to rival Microsoft.
Meanwhile, federal regulators as well as Congress are pursuing antitrust investigations at Amazon as well as other tech giants.
TikTok allows its users to publish short-form mobile videos and showcase their creativity to the app’s 800 million members.
However, the Chinese firm has come under fire as being a threat to national security in the US and other countries around the world.
Last month, India banned the app following a deadly border conflict between the country and China, which resulted in 20 Indian soldiers losing their lives during hand-to-hand combat.
This is not the first time that TikTok has been banned in India.
It was banned briefly last year after concerns were raised about the app being used to distribute pornography.
The ban was lifted after a few weeks, but reinstated June 29.
The news comes just four days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US was ‘looking into’ banning TikTok because it poses a threat to national security.
Pompeo told Fox News’ Laura Ingram Monday that he and President Trump are taking claims that the app collects users’ cellphone data and then shares the information directly with Beijing ‘very seriously’.
The comments were made by Pompeo when quizzed about whether the United States should be considering a ban on Chinese social media apps, ‘especially TikTok.’
‘With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right,’ Pompeo said. ‘I don’t want to get out in front of the President [Donald Trump], but it’s something we’re looking at.’
The top Washington diplomat added that Americans should only download the app ‘if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.’
Other than bans looming over TikTok, the app experienced a worldwide outage Thursday that affected tens of thousands of users.
Around 2pm ET, reports surfaced that all video likes had mysteriously reset to zero – sending users into a frenzy.
However, some had raised concerns that TikTok may have completely shut down, as there has been rumors in the past that it would one day come to an end amid increased governmental scrutiny.
The issues were eventually resolved later that evening.