Army bans TikTok following guidance from the Pentagon

An Army spokeswoman said the app is considered a cybersecurity threat.

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By Kalhan Rosenblatt

The Army, following the lead of the Navy and guidance from the Defense Department, has banned the short form video app TikTok from all government-owned phones, according to an Army spokeswoman.

In a cyber awareness message on Dec. 16, 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," Lt. Col. Robin Ochoa, a spokeswoman for the Army, told Military.com. "We do not allow it on government phones."

In an email to NBC News, Lt. Col. Crystal X. Boring, a public affairs officer for the Army, said the Army was following the guidance of the Office of the Secretary of Defense 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 did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The initial guidance from the Defense Department was part of an effort to "address existing and emerging threats," Air Force Lt. Col. Uriah Orland, a spokesman for the Defense Department, said in a statement, according to Reuters.

The app, owned by the China-based tech company ByteDance, came under scrutiny in October when Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, sent a letter asking Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, to assess TikTok and other China-based companies for potential security risks.

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

The military had been using TikTok as a recruitment tool and as a way to reach young people, but it began dissuading personnel 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 to exercise caution.

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