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NYPD continues TikTok use despite national security fears

It’s a ‘Tiking’ time bomb.

The NYPD has been regularly posting content to TikTok on its official page despite warnings from state and federal intelligence officials that communist China could use the app to spy on users.

New York’s Finest operate one of the most popular TikTok pages of any police department in the US — with nearly 240,000 followers and 1.7 million likes.

Its first post in September 2021 showed a man being rescued from flood waters in Central Park. It has since made over 130 more posts including a controversial one last Saturday of concert-goers leaving a Drake show at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Critics felt they were being surveilled, but the NYPD insisted its cops were simply highlighting a community event.

The NYPD’s TikTok activity comes as dozens of other states have opted to ban TikTok on government devices over fears that data could be used to compromise users.

The NYPD’s TikTok postings have recently consisted of promotional videos and holiday greetings, including a clip commemorating National Donut Day.
TikTok NYPD

“The risk outweighs the benefit here … this is a known national security risk,” said state Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Nassau), who penned a bill last year to ban TikTok on government-issue devices. “It is a rival foreign country using it for ways that aren’t understood.”

The bill is intended to address concerns that TikTok — which is owned by Beijing-headquartered tech company ByteDance, which is beholden to the Chinese government — could be used to collect user data, which could later be used as blackmail or leverage.

And that’s why Thomas said the NYPD should not even use the app for investigative purposes, let alone to celebrate National Donut Day.

“It’s scary,” he added, likening the issues to an episode of the hit dystopian sci-fi Netflix series Black Mirror, a drama exploring techno-paranoia. “It’s a matter of what the other side is finding out about us.”


NYPD TikTok page
The NYPD has one of the most popular TikTok pages amongst state agencies and police departments across the country.
TikTok NYPD

Thomas said he is optimistic his bill will pass after garnering bipartisan support.

Earlier this month, both Ohio and New Jersey announced similar bans on the app on state and local government-issue devices.

New Jersey officials said in a statement that analyses showed the app was collecting keystrokes, taking screen grabs of the user’s device every few seconds, and accessing files stored as copied items on the phone.

“That data may include passwords and other sensitive information – not only into the TikTok app, but also the other apps used on a device, e.g., email, text messages, eHealth apps, etc..,” the statement read.


Christopher Wray
FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau was worried that the Chinese government could use TikTok to influence users or control their devices in November.
Kevin Dietsch

FBI Director Christopher Wray told a House Homeland Security Committee in November that the bureau has “national security concerns” over the app, which could also potentially be used to control software on the devices on which it is downloaded.

The following month, Forbes reported that the app had been used to spy on American journalists, although TikTok has since proposed having an independent, third-party monitor check the social media app’s algorithms to determine if the Chinese government is accessing Americans’ user data.

A TikTok spokesperson said the company has been working with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. for more than two years to come up with a package of measures to address concerns over user data. 

“Our team is focused on continuing to brief elected officials about the details of these robust plans and about our service,”

The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment regarding its use of the app.

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