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Amazon's plea asking staff to remove TikTok 'sent in error'

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
Bangkok, Thailand - August 22, 2019 : iPhone 7 showing its screen with TikTok and other social media application icons.
TikTok app. Photo: Getty

Amazon (AMZN) has walked back on an instruction to employees to remove the TikTok app from their phones, saying the email was “sent in error.”

An internal email sent earlier on Friday (10 July) was quickly rescinded, after it advised employees to delete the app over “privacy” concerns.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 July 10 to retain mobile access to Amazon email. At this time, using TikTok from your Amazon laptop browser is allowed.”

The app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has come under scrutiny amid fears user data could be shared with China.

Its popularity has exploded globally in recent months, as downloads reached more than two billion, and it became the most downloaded app in the first quarter of 2020.

Alongside its popularity, scepticism has grown about how secure it is. On Monday, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration was considering banning TikTok.

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Amazon regularly tells its employees to comply with software updates by a certain date or risk losing access to work email. But giving them less than one day to comply is highly unusual, and suggests that Amazon security has serious concerns about TikTok, according to a report by Yahoo Finance.

Just five hours after the initial ruling, an Amazon spokesperson emailed out this statement: “This morning’s email to some of our employees was sent in error. There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok.”

ByteDance has previously taken pains to distance TikTok from its Chinese ownership, pointing out that its CEO is American.

Rumours continue to circulate that the company will move its headquarters out of China in an effort to further distance itself.

The app was recently banned in India alongside other Chinese apps amid cybersecurity concerns.

TikTok didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment, but said in a statement that security was “of the utmost importance” to the company.