TikTok: Democratic and Republican parties warn staff about app amid rumours of US ban

The Trump administration is concerned about the app's relationship to the Chinese government

Adam Smith
Tuesday 14 July 2020 14:00 BST
Related video: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Americans should not download TikTok
Related video: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Americans should not download TikTok (AFP via Getty Images)

Both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee have issued warnings to their staff about using TikTok.

“We continue to advise campaign staff to refrain from using TikTok on personal devices. If you are using TikTok for campaign work, we recommend using a separate phone and account” wrote the DNC security team, in a warning reportedly seen by CNN.

“Campaign staff should refrain from using foreign-developed apps such as FaceApp and TikTok. If your staff has already downloaded and used either app, they should delete the app and suspend their accounts” it also said.

FaceApp is a smartphone application that uses artificial intelligence to edit pictures. It can make users look older or younger, or make male faces look conventionally female or visa versa.

It is developed by Wireless Lab, located in Russia.

The warning was sent to the Democratic campaigns, committees, and state parties.

Although the concern from the DNC is new, the Republican party had already provided guidance for its employees and stakeholders.

”The RNC has advised employees and stakeholders to not download the TikTok app on their personal devices,“ press secretary Mandi Merritt told CNN, citing ”security concerns.“

TikTok has become a concern in the United States because its developer, ByteDance, is located in China.

As such, much like Huawei, the Trump administration believes that American users will be putting their “private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party”, according to Secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

The US is also considering banning the app.

Amazon tells employees to delete TikTok - video explainer

TikTok is not available in China and has repeatedly claimed that it does not share data with the Chinese government.

Douyin, a TikTok clone also developed by ByteDance for users in China, could share data with the Chinese government. The Independent has reached out to Douyin for clarification.

“We are fully committed to protecting our users' privacy and security. Under the leadership of our American CEO, along with our Chief Information Security Officer and Head of Safety, TikTok's growing US team works diligently to develop a best-in-class security infrastructure and uphold our Community Guidelines which prohibit misleading and inauthentic content and accounts”, a TikTok spokesperson told CNN.

“We welcome a dialogue with anyone who has questions about TikTok so that we can ease concerns they may have.”

China’s approach to privacy and security has remained under question for years due to its use of a social credit system, first announced in 2014, which would monitor the behaviour of its population.

Although private credit scores exist in many other countries, including the UK, China’s technological development and comparatively more repressive government make it a greater cause for alarm.

Recently, the country also enacted a vague national security law that would ban subversive and secessionist activity. While the Chinese government has said such a law restores order between Hong Kong and the rest of China, critics have highlighted its draconian approach to free speech and information.

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