U.S. officials have increasingly expressed concerns about the security risks of using TikTok, which is owned by a company tied to China’s communist government.
Among the most recent moves to thwart this inherent threat involves GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s mandate prohibiting state employees from using the video-sharing platform on any government-issued device.
In a press release this week, he asserted that the social media app “harvests vast amounts of data from its users’ devices — including when, where, and how they conduct internet activity — and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government.”
Abbott went on to push back against TikTok’s claims that all information related to American users is stored domestically, noting that “the company admitted in a letter to Congress that China-based employees have access to U.S. data.”
He cited additional reports that the app’s owner, ByteDance, “planned to use TikTok location information to surveil individual American citizens.”
In response to the security concerns, the governor’s order calls for all state workers to remove the app from their official devices. Abbott’s move mirrors similar orders by officials in South Carolina, Maryland, and South Dakota.
South Dakota is banning TikTok for state government.
We will have no part in intelligence gathering for China, a nation that hates America. I hope other states quickly follow this example and protect the vital private information of our citizens. pic.twitter.com/rJ2H2k0Rlk
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) November 29, 2022
Along with TikTok, Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan included other platforms owned by China or Russia that could present an “unacceptable level of cybersecurity risk to the state.”
TikTok issued a statement lamenting the growing number of bans, explaining: “We are disappointed that the many state agencies, offices, and universities that have been using TikTok to build communities and connect with constituents will no longer have access to our platform.”
Although former President Donald Trump sought to issue a federal ban on TikTok, his order was met with legal challenges and President Joe Biden withdrew the executive action after his inauguration last year.
Nevertheless, the administration remains concerned about the negative implications associated with using the app, as expressed by FBI Director Chris Wray earlier this month.
Explaining that Chinese officials have the ability to “manipulate content” in order to “influence” users and collect data, he added: “All of these things are in the hands of a government that doesn’t share our values, and that has a mission that’s very much at odds with what’s in the best interests of the United States. That should concern us.”