What just happened? Today Amazon sent employees an email banning TikTok on devices connected to Amazon's email. This would have been just the latest on a number of setbacks for TikTok developer, ByteDance. However, a few hours later Amazon took back that stance, saying the email was sent by mistake. TikTok's Chinese ownership and privacy issues have garnered it much scrutiny from governments and companies around the world.
Amazon apparently had planned to request its employees to delete TikTok from their phones according to a company-wide email obtained by The New York Times. The company cited "security risks" as the primary reason. The email specifically requested that employees delete TikTok from any device that can "access Amazon email." Presumably, this includes both employer-provided phones and personal phones that have access to the employee's business email.
Later on, on the same day, Amazon issued a statement saying “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.”
Amazon's retracted policy applied to employees' phones with a narrow window to remove the app in order to retain access to their Amazon email. Accessing TikTok from their laptops' browser was still allowed, however.
"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 10-Jul to retain mobile access to Amazon email."— Scott Hickle 🌎 (@scotthickle) July 10, 2020
A TikTok spokesman responded to Amazon's decision stating, "While Amazon did not communicate to us before sending their email, and we still do not understand their concerns, we welcome a dialogue so we can address any issues they may have and enable their team to continue participating in our community."
This would have been yet another blow to the popular bite-sized video creation app which has continued to face scrutiny over its Chinese ownership. Increased tensions between the United States and China has led many to view TikTok as a danger to national security.
Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that that U.S. is considering a ban on TikTok outright. The app has already been banned by both the Navy and TSA and is undergoing a national security review by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS).
ByteDance has continuously maintained its stance that it's not subject to the whims of the Chinese government, citing its decision to withdraw the app from Hong Kong and keeping U.S. based data inside of the United States. Regardless, the company is having a difficult time proving to the rest of the world of its innocence.