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Amazon tells employees to delete TikTok from phones – CNET

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TikTok is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Amazon sent a memo to employees Friday requiring them to delete the popular social media app TikTok from any mobile devices they use to access their Amazon email.

In the email to workers, Amazon’s IT Services department said the app poses “security risks,” but it didn’t provide specifics. Workers were told to remove the app Friday to be able to keep mobile access to their work email. Access to TikTok from a browser on a laptop is still allowed, according to the email, titled “Action required: Mandatory removal of TikTok by 10-Jul,” which CNET reviewed.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has faced increased scrutiny over concerns about the Chinese government using the app for spying. Citing national security, India banned TikTok last week. The US and Australia are also considering blocking the app. Chinese officials have taken issue with the intelligence concerns.

The New York Times earlier reported about the Amazon email. Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“User security is of the utmost importance to TikTok — we are fully committed to respecting the privacy of our users,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “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.”

TikTok has been the subject of security concerns in the past.

In December, the US Army banned TikTok from its phones, and in March, US senators proposed a bill that would block TikTok from all government devices. The lawmakers behind the legislation cited espionage concerns, noting that Bytedance is a Chinese corporation. 

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri and one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said in a March statement that TikTok “admitted it collects user data while their app is running in the background — including the messages people send, pictures they share, their keystrokes and location data.”  

Security experts have been quick to point out that many apps do this, including popular apps like Facebook, Google Maps and Instagram, but don’t attract the same scrutiny because they’re not Chinese-owned. 

French security researcher Baptiste Robert said he’s analyzed the TikTok app and that while he sees privacy issues with how much data the social network takes from devices, it’s nothing out of the ordinary in the app ecosystem. 

“I found nothing unusual for this kind of app with such a user base,” Robert said. “This is bad in terms of privacy, for sure. But in terms of security, it’s not worse than the other apps.”

Will Strafach, CEO of Guardian, a mobile security company, said he and his team had been looking at TikTok extensively since May. The cybersecurity firm is still in the process of analyzing the app, but hasn’t found any “immediately alarming activity” from TikTok. 

“The process is still underway, but at this time, our current assessment is that they do collect analytics data like many other apps, but they are not showing any indicators of siphoning up anything additional or noteworthy,” Strafach said. 

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