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US Navy bans TikTok over security worries

The Navy tells personnel they can't have the app on government-issued mobile devices and warns them about safeguarding personal information.

Loose lips sink ships. What about loose app security?
James Martin/CNET

The US Navy has banned Chinese app TikTok from government-issued mobile devices because of cybersecurity concerns. In a bulletin posted early this week to a Facebook page for military personnel, the Navy said those who didn't delete the short-video app would be blocked from the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, Reuters reported Friday.

NMCI users were directed "to not install/uninstall the app TikTok from government-furnished mobile devices, such as iPhones and iPads," Dave Benham, director of public affairs for US Fleet Cyber Command/US 10th Fleet, said in a statement emailed to CNET. "This decision was made based on cybersecurity threat assessments and is consistent with 10th Fleet efforts to proactively address existing and emerging threats in defense of our networks."

A Pentagon spokesman told Reuters in a statement that the bulletin also "directs appropriate action for employees to take in order to safeguard their personal information." Reuters said the Navy wouldn't give details about what dangers TikTok presents.

TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, and US officials have expressed concern that China's companies are under the thumb of the country's government and could use their products for spying and other threatening activities.

These companies "have no meaningful ability to tell the Chinese Communist Party 'no' if officials decide to ask for their assistance," US State Department official Christopher Ashley Ford said at a conference in September. TikTok has denied any such cooperation with the government.

Last month, the US Army prohibited cadets from using TikTok, after Sen. Chuck Schumer expressed worries about Army recruiting efforts that used the app, Reuters noted.

Originally published Dec. 21, 12:24 p.m. PT.
Update, 4:51 p.m.: Adds statement from US Fleet Cyber Command/US 10th Fleet.