Amazon bans and unbans TikTok for employees in the same day

Amazon banned and then unbanned the TikTok video-sharing app from employee mobile devices, calling the move a mistake on Friday. (File/AFP)
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Updated 11 July 2020

Amazon bans and unbans TikTok for employees in the same day

  • One person familiar with the matter said that senior Amazon executives were unaware of the request to delete TikTok from employee devices
  • The ban was reversed after TikTok and Amazon representatives discussed the matter

DUBAI: In the span of a few hours on Friday, Amazon banned and then unbanned the TikTok video-sharing app from employee mobile devices, calling the move a mistake.
The news generated widespread attention for the Chinese-owned social media platform, coming in the same week that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US is “certainly looking at” banning TikTok, suggesting it shared information with the Chinese government.
It was not immediately clear what led to the initial ban by Amazon. One person familiar with the matter said that senior Amazon executives were unaware of the request to delete TikTok from employee devices. The ban was reversed after TikTok and Amazon representatives discussed the matter, according to an email sent to TikTok employees.
Earlier this week, Wells Fargo sent a note to employees who had installed TikTok on company-owned mobile devices telling them to remove the app immediately.
“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,” Wells Fargo said in a statement.
“We have not been contacted by Wells Fargo, but as with any organization that has concerns, we are open to engaging with them constructively and letting them know about the actions we have taken to protect data security for our users,” a TikTok spokesman told Reuters.
The attention underscores the hotseat that TikTok’s owner, China-based ByteDance, has found itself in over recent days.
The Chinese ownership of TikTok, among the fastest growing digital platforms ever, has come under heavy scrutiny on issues including their handling of user data. India banned TikTok and other Chinese apps in June.
The company has said that user data is stored in the US with a backup copy in Singapore. One person familiar with the matter said that TikTok’s user data is primarily stored in the Google Cloud in its Virginia-based data center.
TikTok declined to comment. Google could not immediately be reached for comment.
That did not stop Pompeo from floating a possible ban of TikTok in the US. Asked if Americans should download it, he told Fox News: “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
On Friday, the Republican National Committee in the US asked its members via email not to download TikTok. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Friday also reiterated its guidance from December to stop downloading the app.
A person familiar with the matter said that the DNC has been advising campaign staff for months not to use TikTok on their personal devices and to use a separate phone and account if they use the platform for campaign work because of the amount of data it tracks. A spokesman for the DNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Two Republican senators in March introduced a bill aimed at banning federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued phones, citing national security concerns around the collection and sharing of data on US users with China’s government.
Last year the US Navy banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices, saying that the app represented a “cybersecurity threat.”
Last November, the US government launched a national security review of TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co’s $1 billion acquisition of US social media app Musical.ly, Reuters reported last year.
On July 7, TikTok said that it would stop operations in Hong Kong, joining other social media companies in warily eyeing ramifications of a sweeping national security law that took effect the previous week.
The social media companies say that they are assessing implications of the security law, which prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs. In the communist-ruled mainland, the foreign social media platforms are blocked by China’s “Great Firewall.”
To address concerns over its Chinese ownership, ByteDance has taken steps to shift its center of power away from China, Reuters previously reported. It is also looking to make changes to TikTok’s corporate structure for the same reasons, a company spokesperson said this week.
However, the concerns still persist. Last month, when Apple released to developers a test version of its iOS operating system with new privacy features, developers showed images of TikTok’s app triggering notifications that it was copying data from users’ clipboards, where data is temporarily stored while copying and pasting from one app to another.
TikTok said that the notifications were caused by an anti-spam feature but that it would end the practice.
Apple has not restricted TikTok use by employees, one of them said.
Some US semiconductor companies have been reluctant to consider a ban on TikTok because ByteDance is a customer, according to people familiar with the matter.
Some firms providing security services to big companies have added TikTok to their lists of banned apps on managed devices.


Facebook donates $2.1 million to support Lebanon

Updated 12 August 2020

Facebook donates $2.1 million to support Lebanon

  • Managing Director Facebook MENA Ramez Shehadi: We are donating more than $2.1 million to local hospitals, medical institutions and NGOs
  • Ramez Shehadi: We’re working with hospitals and local partners to launch local access to our blood donation tool — allowing donors to find nearby blood donation centers in need of support

DUBAI: Facebook is giving millions to local hospitals, medical institutions and NGOs in Lebanon to support relief and recovery efforts in Beirut following the devastating blast there.

“In support of the vital work that organizations and individuals are doing on the ground in Beirut, we are donating more than $2.1 million to local hospitals, medical institutions and NGOs to support relief and recovery efforts, $1 million of which has been matched by our community as part of a Facebook fundraiser,” said Ramez Shehadi, managing director, Facebook Middle East and North Africa.

“Moreover, we’re working with hospitals and local partners to launch local access to our blood donation tool — which allows blood donors to find nearby blood donation centers in need of support — and supporting local newsrooms impacted. We will continue to work with different organizations that are making a real difference at this critical time,” Shehadi said.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, said in a post: “Facebook is doing what we can to help those struggling in the aftermath. Our safety check tool was activated soon after the explosion, with tens of thousands of people using it to let their friends and loved ones know they were OK. Hundreds of thousands of people visited our crisis page to get accurate information and request help, and we have seen our community come together to search for the missing and offer places to sleep to those who have lost homes. And we are launching our blood donation tool in Lebanon in partnership with local hospitals and others to point local blood donors to nearby blood donation centers.”

Additionally, the Facebook Community activated the safety check feature; and the crisis page is a resource for all those looking for help and support, from searching for missing loves ones to providing services such as blood donations.