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Military personnel banned from using TikTok

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
Military personnel banned from using TikTok
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said the AFP has ordered its personnel to avoid using the China-linked application.
AFP / Kirill Kudryavtsev

MANILA, Philippines — Military personnel are banned from using TikTok amid concerns over its possible use for espionage by China.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said the AFP has ordered its personnel to avoid using the China-linked application.

She said soldiers should not open the app in their personal or government-issued mobile phones or other devices.

“It has a cyber-security implication… it’s not being used in China, considering that it’s an application made in China,” she told reporters yesterday.

“Based on the result of research in the United States, it has a listening capability, like it can monitor your activities through your phone. When you download it, you give certain permissions which include use of microphone, use of camera,” Padilla explained. “So they have control  of your phone and they can practically eavesdrop by turning on your phone.”

Padilla noted that this actually becomes noticeable when you use the application and have a conversation with a friend or speak certain words, a user’s social media account suddenly flashes sponsored advertisements that interest him or her.

She said the TikTok ban on military personnel has been in effect for a long time now, although it has not been publicized.

She added the National Security Council brought up the need to ban the use of TikTok many months ago.

Padilla, a cybersecurity expert, stressed however that the directive has nothing to do with the country’s current problems with China in the West Philippine Sea.

In a separate interview over the Howie Severino Podcast of GMA News, she said TikTok and other similar free applications and even virtual assistant applications like Siri and Alexa tend to tempt people to download and use such apps because they are free.

“Because it’s free and we want the service, we just say yes (to requests to access the microphone, contacts, camera) without reading the fine print,” she said.

“Not just TikTok, but the free apps that we have in our gadgets, they have the capability to turn on our microphones, to look at us and watch us while we sleep and turn on our cameras, you know, access our SMS, send messages to our contacts because we gave them permission when we downloaded these applications,” she added.

Peacemakers

Meanwhile, President Marcos told troops at the Philippine Army’s 401st Infantry Brigade headquarters in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur to become peacemakers even while pursuing lawless elements threatening the country’s peace and democracy.

“But now there is an additional dimension to the job that you have. Your mission is not just the war, you have to be peacemakers and they must remember that somehow, what we are facing is also a Filipino,” he told the officers and troops.

In November last year, Marcos signed Proclamations 403, 404, 405 and 406 granting amnesty to former rebels, and Executive Order 47, which amended a previous issuance creating the National Amnesty Commission.

The commander-in-chief also praised the military for neutralizing communist and terrorist groups in the Caraga and nearby regions this year.

The Joint Task Force is composed of the Army’s 401st, 402nd, 403rd and 901st Infantry Brigades, covering most parts of Caraga and Northern Mindanao.

“Just like what I wrote in the guestbook, keep up the good work. Congratulations on your successes,” he said.

In a statement, the Presidential Communications Office said from 2021 to present, the troops under the Army’s 4ID helped facilitate the surrender of 2,596 former rebels, of whom 2,167 or 83 percent were already awarded benefits under the E-CLIP. — Helen Flores

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