MORRISVILLE, N.C. – A Triangle IT expert on Thursday says TikTok is a fun app, but should be used with caution.

  • The U.S. government is reviewing whether TikTok's Chinese owners pose a threat to national security
  • The Army and Navy both have banned servicemembers from using it
  • The company says none of its data centers are in China or subject to Chinese law

TikTok, a short-video social media application, has garnered millions of downloads since it debuted in 2017. On Thursday, the Times of Israel reported Israeli experts found multiple security flaws, including one that let hackers send malicious links to users via text message. TikTok has fixed the flaws.

Greg Manson, director of security, audit and compliance at Carolinas IT, says it's common for new applications to have security flaws. What sets TikTok apart is the fact that it is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance. Manson says ByteDance is not subject to U.S. law. By contrast, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat are owned by American companies and thus are subject to federal and state consumer privacy laws.

Security concerns surrounding TikTok have mounted since October, when the United States launched a national security review of the app. The U.S. Army and U.S. Navy have both banned their servicemembers from using the app on government-owned devices. U.S. senators including New York Democrat Chuck Schumer and Missouri Republican Josh Hawley have expressed concern ByteDance could be forced by the Chinese Communist Party to share users' information with Chinese intelligence agencies.

Cary teen Jorge Torres says he hadn't heard about the concerns surrounding TikTok and was surprised the U.S. government considered it such a threat. Torres says the best advice he has for fellow teens is to not answer strange texts and block anyone who sends direct messages that make you feel uncomfortable.

TikTok says it stores all U.S. user data in the United States and backs it up in Singapore, so none of its data is subject to Chinese law. The company also says Americans' content is moderated by a team led out of California.

Manson says TikTok is still safe to use as long as you use it wisely. He says to take care with your surroundings when you shoot a video to ensure you don't reveal sensitive personal or company information. Manson also says to avoid using a work email account to log in.