KEY POINTS

  • Amazon told employees in a companywide email to delete TikTok immediately, citing "security risks" 
  • TikTok has become a regular target of scrutiny over privacy issues due to its ownership by Chinese multinational ByteDance
  • India ordered the ban of 59 Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, in the wake of skirmishes along the Sino-Indian border 

In a companywide email Friday, Amazon asked its employees to delete the popular social media video app TikTok, citing “security risks.” This comes days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said U.S. officials were considering banning the app because its parent company is Chinese-multinational ByteDance.

“Due to security risks, the TikTok app is no longer permitted on mobile devices that access Amazon email,” the email acquired by the New York Times said. “If you have TikTok on your device, you must remove it by 10-Jul [July 10] to retain mobile access to Amazon email.”

“At this time, using TikTok from your Amazon laptop browser is allowed.”

A report issued in May said Amazon employed around 798,000 full- and part-time employees, with some 500,000 located in the U.S. Amazon has not said if or how it would enforce the ban.

TikTok has been downloaded more than 2 billion times, serving as a semi-successor to the short-form video-sharing app Vine, which shut down in January 2017. However, the social media app has found itself a regular target of scrutiny due to its popularity and ownership.

The Telegraph reported late last month a TikTok feature was able to access users’ clipboard data on iOS devices while the app was operating in the background, making passwords and other sensitive information available. The possible intrusion was found thanks to a feature in iOS 14 that provides a notification if a third-party app accesses the clipboard.

A TikTok spokesperson said shortly after the report was published it had updated the app to disable the access, saying the feature was meant only to monitor “spammy behavior.”

“Following the beta release of iOS 14 on June 22, users saw notifications while using a number of popular apps,” a TikTok spokesperson said. “For TikTok, this was triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behavior.”

The spokesperson said TikTok was “committed to protecting users’ privacy and being transparent about how our app works.”

TikTok executives have also tried to assure users and world leaders it operates independently from its Chinese parent.

“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product and public policy here in the U.S.,” TikTok said in a press release Monday. “We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

This assurance did little to assuage fears about possible data-sharing between ByteDance and the Chinese government.

India Monday banned the use of 59 Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, in response to a series of skirmishes along the Sino-Indian border in June that left 20 Indian soldiers dead.

“The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defense of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in a press release.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday the U.S. was looking into banning several Chinese-owned apps as well, TikTok among them. Pompeo is among several U.S. officials who have accused TikTok of putting “private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

“With respect to Chinese apps on people's cellphones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too,” Pompeo told Fox News. “I don't want to get out in front of the President [Trump], but it's something we're looking at.”

TikTok denies allegations it censors political content to appease China TikTok denies allegations it censors political content to appease China Photo: AFP / Olivier DOULIERY