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Sri Lanka Suspends Flight Training Near Biggest Air Force Base due to Security Concerns

Flight training has been suspended at Ratmalana, a suburb in the capital Colombo, the country's Civil Aviation Authority said in a letter to flying schools and aircraft operators

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flight training, air force base, security concerns
FILE - Sri Lankan air force paratroopers get ready for an exercise at an air force base in Ratmalana, a suburb of Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Sri Lanka has suspended flight training near its biggest air force base due to security concerns after suspected Islamist militants killed more than 250 people last month, according to a government directive seen by Reuters on Thursday.

Sri Lanka has been on high alert since multiple suicide bombings on Easter Sunday targeted churches and hotels. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Flight training has been suspended at Ratmalana, a suburb in the capital Colombo, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a letter to flying schools and aircraft operators.

flight training, air force base, security concerns
Flight training has been suspended at Ratmalana, a suburb in the capital Colombo, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a letter to flying schools and aircraft operators. VOA

Training will only be allowed from the Katukurunda domestic airport, around 35 km (22 miles) south of Colombo, and flights can only fly to the south of that base, according to the letter. A copy of the letter, dated April 30th, was seen by Reuters. The new rules are effective immediately.

ALSO READ: Sri Lanka is in a Safe Position Right Now for Tourists, Says President Maithripala Sirisena

Sri Lanka suspended training at Ratmalana during the peak of the civil war with Tamil separatists fearing air attacks. The letter cites new rules “in view of the prevailing security threat to the national defense, lives of public and properties.” The new guidelines also suspend recreational and leisure flights such as sky diving.

No training flights have been operated for two weeks since the rules came into place due to difficulties in moving training operations to Katukurunda, according to a source familiar with the matter. (VOA)

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TikTok Security Concerns Raised By U.S. Army

National security experts have raised concerns about TikTok’s collection and handling of user data

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Tik Tok logo is displayed on the smartphone
Tik Tok logo is displayed on the smartphone while standing on the U.S. flag in this illustration picture. VOA

The U.S. Army is undertaking a security assessment of China-owned social media platform TikTok after a Democratic lawmaker raised national security concerns over the app’s handling of user data, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Thursday.

Speaking to reporters at an event at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, McCarthy said he ordered the assessment after the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Chuck Schumer, asked him to investigate the possible risks in the military’s use of the popular video app for recruiting American teenagers.

“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,” Schumer wrote in a Nov. 7 letter to McCarthy.

Schumer said he was especially concerned about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”

Ryan McCarthy speaking about TikTok
Ryan McCarthy, the nominee to the Secretary of the Army, speaks during his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, in Washington. VOA

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has launched a national security review of TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co.’s $1 billion acquisition of U.S. social media app Musical.ly.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company has previously emphasized its independence from China but has failed to assuage congressional concerns about the security of the personal data of U.S. citizens who use the platform and whether content on the platform is subject to any censorship from Beijing.

In a Nov. 5 blog post, TikTok’s U.S. general manager, Vanessa Pappas, said that the company’s data centers “are located entirely outside of China.” She said U.S. user data is stored in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore.

ByteDance is one of China’s fastest-growing startups. About 60% of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the United States are between the ages of 16 and 24, the company said this year.

Earlier this year, Schumer also called on the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission to conduct a national security and privacy investigation into FaceApp, a face-editing photo app developed in Russia.

ALSO READ: U.S. Army Sparks an Industry Battle After it Looks For Robots.

The potential for the sharing of army information through the use of apps was highlighted after researchers found in 2018 that fitness-tracking app Strava was inadvertently exposing military posts and other sensitive sites.

In 2017, the Army ordered its members to stop using drones made by Chinese manufacturer SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd because of “cyber vulnerabilities” in the products. (VOA)