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U.S. Military Investigating TikTok’s Collection of User Data

A person holds a smartphone with Tik Tok logo displayed, November 7, 2019. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

The U.S. military is investigating China-based social media app TikTok over security concerns regarding the company’s handling of user data, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said on Thursday.

McCarthy told a press conference at a Thursday event sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute that he ordered a security review of the app after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) asked him to investigate security dangers TikTok may pose to American teenagers.

TikTok users can create short videos of themselves dancing or singing and share the videos across the platform. The app is popular among teenagers and has been downloaded roughly 110 million times in the U.S. ISIS terrorists have used the app to share propaganda videos, including footage of beheadings.

“National security experts have raised concerns about TikTok’s collection and handling of user data, including user content and communications, IP addresses, location-related data, metadata, and other sensitive personal information,” Schumer wrote to McCarthy in a November 7 letter. Schumer also conveyed fears Chinese law would force the app “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”

On October 24, Schumer and Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) sent a joint letter to acting national intelligence director Joseph Maguire asking him to determine if the app posed a national security risk.

There have also been reports TikTok censors content according to Chinese government directives. Videos of Hong Kong protesters, for example, are almost impossible to find on the app. TikTok has vehemently denied the allegations.

“TikTok does not remove content based on sensitivities related to China,” the company said in a blog post. “We have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked. Period.

 

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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