America’s fourth-largest bank, Wells Fargo, is barring the app TikTok on company devices and instructing any employees who have it currently installed to remove it immediately, citing privacy concerns.
“We have identified a small number of Wells Fargo employees with corporate-owned devices who had installed the TikTok application on their device,” Wells Fargo said in a statement to multiple outlets. “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.”
The short-form video platform is one of the most popular apps in the world, boasting 800 million users globally. In the few years since its release, Tiktok’s ownership by the Beijing-based company Bytedance has sparked a mounting chorus of concern from federal agencies and officials about whether its user data could be funneled to the Chinese government.
To date, that allegation remains unsubstantiated, and the company has repeatedly denied that it’s beholden to the Chinese government. The app is not available on the Chinese mainland, and TikTok has made repeated moves to distance itself from Bytedance in an attempt to assuage concerns by isolating content moderation from China-based employees.
But in response, the Trump regime has only doubled down on its espionage claims. This week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the administration is considering banning TikTok along with other apps owned by Chinese companies.
“I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we’re looking at,” Pompeo told Fox News’s Laura Ingraham on Monday night in reference to a possible TikTok ban. When asked about whether he recommends that people download the app, Pompeo responded: “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese government.”
Such a ban would fall in line with the Trump regime’s aggressive restrictions on another Chinese-owned tech company, Huawei, which has been virtually blacklisted and shut out from the U.S. market over national security concerns.
It’s worth noting that U.S. President Donald Trump may have some particular vitriol for this app, however. TikTok was supposedly the platform du jour behind the massive covert troll effort that resulted in a piddly turnout at his plague rally last month. And the president’s been known to hold a grudge.
TikTok also has a long history of privacy scandals. In 2019, the company agreed to pay $US1.1 ($2) million to settle a proposed class-action lawsuit. The suit alleged that its predecessor, Musical.ly, had violated children’s privacy laws and misused data from its predominantly young userbase “in a reckless and unlawful manner for commercial gain.” Concerned parents and consumer advocacy groups have since filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that TikTok continues to violate these privacy laws to this day. Last month, TikTok was also one of several apps found to be snooping on users’ clipboard content on iOS devices.
On Friday it was widely reported that Amazon was pursuing a similar ban to Wells Fargo’s, but the company has since clarified that’s not the case. Per CNN, an Amazon spokesperson said that an email directing employees to remove the app from their devices had been sent “in error” and that “[t]here is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok.”