Yesterday was the deadline for Amazon employees to delete TikTok from their mobiles. The retail giant had sent out communications to all its employees instructing them to delete the app by 10th July 2020. This was a surprising move in the first instance, but it turns out, it was actually sent in error – or so Amazon claims. When contacted for comment, the company declined to give any explanation on how or why the communication was sent by accident.
Apparently, the email was only sent to some employees, not all. A spokesperson for Amazon said that they have not changed their policies on employees’ use of TikTok, and the email was a mistake. The initially email communication containing the deletion instruction included information about security concerns. The email read: “Due to security risks, the TikTok app is no longer permitted on mobile devices that access Amazon email. If you have TikTok on your device, you must remove it by 10-Jul to retain mobile access to Amazon email. At this time, using TikTok from your Amazon laptop browser is allowed. To learn more.” The email communication went on further to refer to the company’s mobile usage policy which contained a link to the aforementioned policy, stating: “To learn more, review the policy for mobile device usage at Amazon. If you have any issues or questions, start a chat with IT Support.
The question is, why was the app banned (albeit temporarily)? TikTok has very quickly jumped to the top of the app charts and is one of the most popular social media apps available. Many government officials are however becoming gradually more suspicious of the company that owns it (Chinese). The new privacy feature in the latest Apple mobile operating system, iOS 14, disclosed that the TikTok app was able to access the content of their users’ clipboards. Last year though, the app had in fact promised to cease this untrustworthy practice.
Staff members at Amazon were surprised and caught off guard by the company’s email comms informing them to immediately delete the app. Reportedly, they still do not understand the concerns. After the discovery that TikTok is continuing their dubious practice of accessing app users’ clipboard content, the concerns may well be understandable. Amazon advised that any mobile using the Amazon email service should delete the TikTok app. Many outsiders may think this is reasonable because the retail giant does not want their confidential email comms, effectively, monitored by a Chinese owned social media app! And considering the fact that Amazon is a large advertiser on the app, it is even more startling. They did not consult with TikTok before they sent the comms either.
But hold on just a second. As it turns out, the following day (today), Amazon retracted its email to all staff and said that it was sent in error and they do not need employees to delete the app anymore. But what happened? We can only speculate at this point. Perhaps the social media app owners promptly reacted to the action and were in touch with the retail giant. Perhaps this led to Amazon issuing their retraction. Or perhaps they decided that employees need to rather install a configuration profile on their mobiles which would enable them to access company emails and therefore block any external apps from gaining access to anything confidential. The latter would make sense since the company’s IT resources are indeed huge and forward-thinking.
Whatever it was that caused the retraction of their deletion order, Amazon is not the only large organisation to have concerns about using the app. The U.S. Military has now banned its members of staff from accessing the app and the Federal Government is in the process of contemplating a wider ban, taking into account concerns that the Chinese government might be using the app as a means to spy on American citizens. Even more astonishing is India, who announced earlier in the month that they would be banning TikTok completely, as well as other popular Chinese owned apps over its apprehensions relating to the threats to its integrity and sovereignty.