Ama­zon email stokes TikTok de­bate

The re­tail gi­ant tells staff to toss the app for se­cu­rity rea­sons, then backs off.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Suhauna Hus­sain

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.”

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