Amazon email stokes TikTok debate
The retail giant tells staff to toss the app for security reasons, then backs off.
Hours after sending an email instructing employees to remove the social media app TikTok from their phones, citing unspecified “security risks,” Amazon.com Inc. said Friday the message was sent in error.
The curious sequence of events came days after the White House amped up messaging that casts the popular Chinese-owned service as a potential threat to national security.
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and President Trump said early this week the federal government was weighing a ban on the app in the U.S. because of concerns surrounding Chinese surveillance.
Trump’s and Pompeo’s comments represent the latest escalation of conflict between the U.S. and China, which are locked in a global competition for technological dominance.
The Trump administration has campaigned against China, launching a trade war more than two years ago and clamping down on China’s premier telecommunications company, Huawei Technologies Co., by barring it from doing business with U.S. firms.
Whereas the Huawei crackdown shook the world of enterprise technology, the TikTok feud could touch U.S. consumers directly.
There are real security concerns about TikTok, experts say, but the Trump administration’s harsh stance on the app appears to be heavily driven by its posturing toward China. Were TikTok to end up a casualty of this war, it could have widereaching effects.
Amazon’s email to employees, first reported by the New York Times and independently confirmed by the L.A. Times, said TikTok, which lets users create and share short videos of themselves with millions of viewers, would no longer be allowed on mobile devices that access Amazon email. Employees would still be allowed to use TikTok on their Amazon laptops using a web browser, the email said.
TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance.
An Amazon spokesperson declined to provide more details.
TikTok said in a statement that the company is committed to respecting the privacy of users: “While Amazon did not communicate to us before sending their email, and we still do not understand their concerns, we welcome a dialogue so we can address any issues they may have and enable their team to continue participating in our community.”