A New York lawmaker wants Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy to explain the service's decision to allow recruiters to use TikTok when U.S. intelligence officials are investigating whether the China-based social media app represents a national security risk.
In a Nov. 7 letter to McCarthy, Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, expressed concern about the "use of China-owned social media platforms such as TikTok by U.S. Army personnel in both personal and professional capacities."
The letter was sent on the same day Military.com published a report about Army Recruiting Command recruiters using TikTok as part of a strategy to connect with young people in Generation Z.
"While I recognized that the Army must adapt its recruiting techniques in order to attract young Americans to serve, I urge you to assess the potential national security risks posed by China-owned technology companies before choosing to utilize certain platforms," Schumer wrote.
He reminded McCarthy of an Oct. 23 letter sent by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, and him, requesting that U.S. intelligence community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikToK and China-owned content platforms operating in the United States.
Schumer asked for answers to the following questions by Dec. 6:
- "Has the Army consulted with the intelligence community and the Department of Homeland Security with regard to TikTok and other China-owned social media platforms, and whether they pose security risks as platforms for recruitment? If not, does the Army have future plans for such consultations?"
- "Has the Army conducted an analysis of alternative recruiting platforms prior to its decision to leverage TikTok?"
In his letter to McCarthy, Schumer said he is concerned that there are no safeguards in place to prevent the Chinese government from accessing user data from TikTok's Beijing-based owner, ByteDance.
"National security experts have raised concerns about TikTok's collection and handling of user data, including user content and communications, IP addresses, location-related data, metadata, and other sensitive personal information, particularly when viewed in light of laws that compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party," he wrote. "Further, due to a lack of transparency and without an independent judiciary to review requests made by Chinese government for user data and other actions, there is no legal mechanism for Chinese companies to appeal if they disagree with a request."
McCarthy's office sent the following statement in response to a query from Military.com:
"We are aware of the concerns," said Lt. Col. Driece Harris, a spokeswoman for McCarthy. "While these concerns are not unique to any specific social media platform, we take matters of security seriously and make every effort to ensure our force is safeguarding sensitive and personal information."
In addition to the Army, the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps have told Military.com that they do not have any specific guidance on the use of TikTok. Instead, the services rely on a broad Defense Department guidance and advise service members to practice caution when using any social media apps.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.