Amazon has told its employees to remove TikTok from any device that accesses corporate email, citing unspecified “security risks” related to the Chinese-owned viral video app.
“If you have TikTok on your device, you must remove it by 10-Jul to retain mobile access to Amazon email,” according to an email sent to staff on Friday morning, seen by the Financial Times.
It added: “At this time, using TikTok from your Amazon laptop browser is allowed.”
The move comes as the use of Chinese-owned apps, particularly TikTok, is under intense scrutiny over data gathering and other possible security implications.
Amazon did not respond to requests for further comment. The company has 925,000 employees globally, though the vast majority are warehouse workers without an Amazon email account. There are more than 50,000 staff at the company’s corporate headquarters in Seattle.
The company runs at least five official accounts on the network, with a combined following of about 4m, promoting different aspects of the company’s services. All were still active on Friday.
A TikTok spokesperson said that Amazon “did not communicate to us before sending their email” and that it did “not understand their concerns”.
But the spokesperson added: “User security is of the utmost importance to TikTok — we are fully committed to respecting the privacy of our users . . . we welcome a dialogue so we can address any issues they may have and enable their team to continue participating in our community.”
TikTok, owned by one of China’s largest private companies, ByteDance, has exploded in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic, breaking the quarterly record for installs in the first quarter of this year for any app to date.
But its Chinese roots have prompted concerns over privacy, security and the censorship of content. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said earlier this week that the country might look to block Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, over national security fears.
When asked by Fox News whether Americans should use the app, Mr Pompeo replied: “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist party.”
In India, TikTok was one of 59 Chinese-owned apps banned at the end of June over accusations from the country’s ministry of electronics and information technology of data privacy breaches.
TikTok has long insisted its business outside China, including content moderation and data policies, is not dictated by its managers within the mainland.
ByteDance said this week that it was “evaluating changes to the corporate structure of its TikTok business” as global regulators pressure it to prove its independence.
In particular, it said it was weighing options such as building a TikTok management board separate from the existing ByteDance one, as well as establishing headquarters for the app outside of China — an apparent U-turn just weeks after it told the Financial Times that such measures were not under consideration.
ByteDance also recently hired Kevin Mayer, former Disney executive, as TikTok’s chief executive, in an effort to bolster the app’s reputation in the US and expand its growing advertising business.
Separately, TikTok said earlier this week that it would pull out of Hong Kong in order to protect users, after Beijing imposed a sweeping new national security law that has raised concerns about how data is handled in the city.