Border Police bans officers from using Chinese app Tiktok over security fears

Popular video-sharing app forbidden on base and during operations, agency says, citing ‘security risks’ and harm to its ‘values and image’

Illustrative image of border police on June 18, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative image of border police on June 18, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israel’s Border Police has banned its officers from using a popular Chinese video-sharing social networking app over security concerns.

The security agency, a branch of Israel’s national police force, has instructed its officers not to use TikTok while wearing Border Police uniforms, on base, or during operations.

The app is especially popular among Israeli teenagers, who use it to film and share short videos.

The Border Police said uploading videos to the app from police installations or operations could compromise Israel’s security, while the footage itself could “compromise the values and image of the organization,” reflecting a concern that sharing videos could hurt the privacy of suspects or show officers behaving inappropriately.

It said the ban on uploading information and multimedia about bases and operations to social media has been in place for years, but added that several videos shared recently on TikTok caused the agency to single out the Chinese app.

ILLUSTRATIVE- An iPhone 7 loaded with TikTok and other social media application icons. (Wachiwit/iStock)

The new order does not explicitly mention concerns related to Chinese snooping of the sort that led to TikTok being banned by parts of the US military.

Last month, the US Army banned the app following warnings by the Pentagon and US lawmakers. The move came just two weeks after the US Navy did the same.

Responding to a Defense Department Cyber Awareness Message that cautioned there were “potential security risks associated with its use,” the US Army instructed servicemembers not to keep the app on government-issued phones, reported.

Personnel should also “be wary of applications you download, monitor your phones for unusual and unsolicited texts etc., and delete them immediately and uninstall TikTok to circumvent any exposure of personal information.”

A US army spokesman told the online publication that TikTok was “considered a cyber threat” and that “we do not allow it on government phones.”

A US Army soldier shows elementary school students a game on his cellphone while eating lunch during an Earth Day event on April 24, 2019, in Japan. (U.S Army photo by Noriko Kudo)

According to CNN, several senior US lawmakers have asserted that the company behind the app could be compelled “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party,” a charge that the company denies.

US legislators have also expressed concerns over other Chinese technology firms, most notably telecommunications giant Huawei.

Last year, the US took steps to prevent soldiers in “operational areas” from broadcasting location data from their smartphones after it emerged that the Strava running app had revealed the positions of troops stationed in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that location data it had obtained from a domestic data firm had allowed it to identify “people in positions of power” to the degree that the paper’s reporters could follow “military officials with security clearances as they drove home at night.”

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