Texas has joined Maryland, South Dakota, South Carolina and Nebraska, as well as the US military, in banning TikTok from government devices.
In just five years, the Chinese-owned video app has attracted more than one billion active users in more than 150 countries. But while TikTok has become the go-to news source for millennials and Gen Z adults alike, security concerns have also intensified.
In a letter directing all agencies in the state of Texas to ditch TikTok, Gov. Greg Abbott said the app “collects vast amounts of data from its users’ devices” and “offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government.”
Review by legislators
Nebraska banned the use of TikTok on government devices in August 2020, a year after the US military did so. And last Wednesday, Texas became the fourth state in a week to impose similar bans amid Republicans’ push to crack down on TikTok.
Indiana went even further by suing TikTok for alleged security breaches. India’s Attorney General Todd Rokita accused ByteDance, the app’s parent company, of “giving children access to adult content and not disclosing that China can access users’ data,” according to NBC News.
A pair of lawsuits filed last week by Rokita seek an emergency injunction and civil sanctions from the app.
TikTok is facing “increasing scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers over its data practices,” the FT reports, but these security concerns are not new. During his tenure as president, Donald Trump threatened to ban the app.
In June, the Joe Biden administration ordered foreign-owned apps to be checked, in what many see as a warning to the Chinese government.
TikTok expressed “disappointment” with the latest government bans. The company said in a statement that the crackdown was “largely driven by disinformation.”
TikTok is on “the path of our negotiations with the US government to fully satisfy all reasonable considerations of US national security,” the statement said.
Big Tech Congress Next Goal
TikTok appears to be Congress’s “next high-tech target,” Vox reporter Sarah Morrison said. While the app has “attempted to distance itself from its Chinese parent company,” she wrote, “these claims have been undermined by recent reports that ByteDance has a lot of control over TikTok and its direction.”
In an op-ed for The Washington Post last month, two Republican senators — Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin — justified their decision to introduce a law that would ban TikTok and other Chinese social networks from operating in the US.
The senators wrote that TikTok, and by extension the Chinese Communist Party, has “the ability to track every keystroke teens type on their phones.” They argue that unless the app and its algorithm are separated from Beijing, its use in the US “will continue to threaten the security of our country and pave the way for a Chinese-influenced technology landscape.”
But while “a total ban on TikTok in the US is possible,” according to Forbes, it’s unlikely. “For this to happen soon, a lot of water needs to flow under the bridge.”
In addition to some states banning the app on government phones, the federal government “has done little to regulate TikTok so far,” the site noted, “not to mention banning it for all users in the US.”