Amazon Says Email Banning TikTok From Employee Phones Was ‘Sent in Error’

TikTok app
Hayoung Jeon/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

UPDATED: Amazon instructed company staff to delete TikTok from their phones because of potential “security risks” earlier Friday — but the ecommerce giant now says that was sent by mistake.

“This morning’s email to some of our employees was sent in error,” an Amazon spokesman said in a statement to Variety. “There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok.”

In the earlier message, Amazon told workers that TikTok, the short-form video app owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance, should not be used on any device that can access Amazon’s email system. The email to staff regarding TikTok was first reported by the New York Times.

“Due to security risks, the TikTok app is no longer permitted on mobile devices that access Amazon email,” the Amazon notification had said. Amazon had about 840,000 employees worldwide as of the end of the first quarter.

Earlier, in a statement to Variety, a TikTok spokesperson said, “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. We’re proud that tens of millions of Americans turn to TikTok for entertainment, inspiration, and connection, including many of the Amazon employees and contractors who have been on the frontlines of this pandemic.”

The TikTok rep added, “User security is of the utmost importance to TikTok — we are fully committed to respecting the privacy of our users.”

This week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. government is looking at somehow banning TikTok — as well as other apps from Chinese companies — also over concerns that the Chinese government could possibly have access to private user info.

In response to Pompeo’s remarks, TikTok claimed that the company has “never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

ByteDance just hired former Disney exec Kevin Mayer as CEO of TikTok (and COO of ByteDance), based out of L.A. In a recent webcast, Mayer acknowledged the issues TikTok faces given its Chinese parent company. “There are a lot of politics going on,” Mayer said, speaking during a Creatv University webinar last month. He claimed, “We are not really a Chinese company.”

The government of India banned TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps last week, coming amid a border conflict between the two countries. Meanwhile, TikTok has now disabled its app for users in Hong Kong, after China imposed a national security law that expands government officials’ ability to monitor and block internet content.

Separately, the U.S. Justice Department and FTC are currently investigating whether TikTok has continued to violate child-privacy laws. Last year the FTC last year entered into an agreement under which TikTok paid a $5.7 million fine and promised comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). But this spring, 20 advocacy groups alleged TikTok was still breaking the law.