Wells Fargo & Co has told its employees to remove popular social media app TikTok from their phones, citing the potential privacy concerns of the Chinese-owned app.
Wells Fargo, one of the largest banks in the U.S. has issued a statement saying that “we have identified a small number of Wells Fargo employees with corporate-owned devices who had installed the TikTok application on their device.”
“Due to concerns about TikTok’s privacy and security controls and practices, and because corporate-owned devices should be used for company business only, we have directed those employees to remove the app from their devices.”
In April this year, TikTok reached the milestone of 2 billion downloads globally, which has concerned tech analysts, foreign policy experts and government officials, considering that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance operates out of mainland China.
In recent months, TikTok has come under extreme scrutiny for its privacy policies and potential links to the Chinese communist government. Upon Apple’s release of their updated iOS 14, a new feature which tracked apps accessing data in the user’s clipboard showed that TikTok was indeed accessing potentially sensitive data.
TikTok’s owner, ByteDance has said the company has since removed the feature.
U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has previously said that the Trump administration was “looking at” the possibility of banning TikTok due to the potential espionage capabilities of a Chinese-owned social media platform.
A recent report from Bloomberg cites a White House adviser, Peter Navarro who said that President Trump is likely to take “strong action” against Chinese-owned applications for engaging in potential “information warfare.”
“If TikTok separates as an American company, that doesn’t help us,” Navarro said. “It’s going to be worse – we’re going to have to give China billions of dollars for the privilege of having TikTok operate on U.S. soil.”
Earlier this month, a report from Forbes said that the hacking collective, Anonymous has described TikTok as “essentially malware operated by the Chinese government running a massive spying operation.”
The anonymous account told their 6 million followers to “delete TikTok now.”
The statement from Anonymous came after a Reddit user reverse-engineered the TikTok app and found it was accessing far more data than initially thought.
“TikTok is a data collection service that is thinly-veiled as a social network,” the user wrote.
India has already moved to ban TikTok completely from its citizens’ phones, in addition to 58 Chinese-owned apps that they believe could prove problematic in terms of their privacy and security implications.
Last week, Amazon told its employees to remove TikTok from their mobile devices, but soon reversed its decision saying the initial email was sent “in error”. Amazon has since said that there has been “no change to our policies right now with regard to TiKTok.”
White House advisor, Peter Navarro said Amazon’s “back away” from its initial email to staff illustrates the “power of the Chinese Communist Party on corporate America.”
TikTok has denied all suggestions that the company is engaged in any form of spyware or activities for the Chinese government.