Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) this week introduced a bill aimed at banning the use of the China-made TikTok application on government devices.
Referred to as the “No TikTok on Government Devices Act,” the new legislation would prevent government employees, diplomats, and politicians from downloading or using TikTok or other applications from the same developer on their government-issued phones.
A global phenomenon, TikTok allows users to create and share short comedy or talent videos. Built by Beijing-based ByteDance in 2016, the application was released on Android and iOS in 2017 and has over 1 billion users.
Last year, U.S. senators warned that Chinese companies might be forced by the government in their country to provide intelligence to the Chinese Communist Party, but TikTok denied it. However, concerns regarding the application’s misuse led to the U.S. Army banning its use on government phones.
In early January 2020, Check Point revealed that TikTok was plagued by multiple vulnerabilities that could allow attackers to upload fake videos and leak sensitive information, and at a Senate hearing last week U.S. officials warned about the potential security risks posed by the application.
Sen. Hawley, who convened the hearing, said at the time he was working on a bill to ban the application’s use on official devices, and the legislation was introduced this week.
“No employee of the United States, officer of the United States, Member of Congress, congressional employee, or officer or employee of a government corporation may download or use TikTok or any successor application developed by ByteDance or any entity owned by ByteDance on any device issued by the United States or a government corporation,” the bill reads (PDF).
According to the legislation, the application’s use would still be permitted for “investigation, cybersecurity research activity, enforcement action, disciplinary action, or intelligence activity.”
The two senators supporting the bill argue that the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and TSA have already banned the use of TikTok on federal government devices.
“TikTok is owned by a Chinese company that includes Chinese Communist Party members on its board, and it is required by law to share user data with Beijing. The company even admitted it collects user data while their app is running in the background – including the messages people send, pictures they share, their keystrokes and location data, you name it. As many of our federal agencies have already recognized, TikTok is a major security risk to the United States, and it has no place on government devices,” Sen. Hawley commented.
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