Tech

US Army bans TikTok following guidance from the Pentagon

Kalhan Rosenblatt
A US Marine uses his smartphone to take pictures during a joint military drill between South Korea and US Marines at a fire training field in the southeastern port of Pohang.
Jung Yeon-Je | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. Army, following the lead of the U.S. Navy and guidance from the Pentagon, has banned the short form video app TikTok from all government-owned phones, according to a U.S. Army spokeswoman.

On Dec. 16, in a cyber awareness message, the Defense Information Systems Agency recommended that all employees of the Defense Department not use the Chinese-owned app.

"It is considered a cyber threat," Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Robin Ochoa told Military.com. "We do not allow it on government phones."

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In an email to NBC News, Army Public Affairs Lt. Col. Crystal X. Boring said the Army is following the Office of the Secretary of Defense's guidance that TikTok is a potential security risk.

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"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," Boring said.

A spokesperson for TikTok also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The initial guidance from the Pentagon to discontinue use of the app was part of an effort to "address existing and emerging threats," Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Uriah Orland said in a statement, according to Reuters.

The app, owned by Chinese-base tech company ByteDance, came under scrutiny in October when Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic minority leader, and Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, sent a letter to the acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire asking him to assess TikTok and other China-based companies for potential security risks.

In November, it was reported that a security risk assessment of TikTok by the U.S. government had been opened.

The Military had been using TikTok as a recruitment tool and as a way to reach young people, but began dissuading soldiers from using the app in mid-December, according to Military.com.

Military personnel are allowed to use the app on their personal devices, but the Defense Department has warned that those using the app in their private lives still exercise caution.

It was not immediately clear if the U.S. Marine Corps or the U.S. Air Force had also banned the app.