A US state bans TikTok on government-owned devices over ties to China

TikTok data is being used by the Chinese government, according to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, to “manipulate the American people.”

Source: Engadget.com.

South Dakota’s governor, Kristi Noem, has signed an executive order making it illegal for government employees, contractors, and organizations to download and use TikTok on equipment that belongs to the state. Noem said in her office release that she decided, due to mounting security worries, that the Chinese Communist Party has been gathering information from American users of the social networking app and using it to influence them. The ban on government employees accessing the TikTok website through browsers is already in effect.

South Dakota will not cooperate with hostile countries’ intelligence collection efforts, declared Noem. “The Chinese Communist Party manipulates the American people using the information it obtains from TikTok, and they collect information from the devices that use the platform.”

Over the past three years, US officials have voiced security worries about TikTok, owned by the Chinese corporation ByteDance, because they think the Chinese government is using it to collect data. Trump, president at the time, tried to ban WeChat and TikTok in the US in 2020. 

While that didn’t exactly happen, most US military have blacklisted TikTok as a “cybersecurity concern” and prohibited it from being used on government-issued gadgets. In the same year, a few Republican senators drafted a bill forbidding any government worker from using TikTok on a smartphone provided for work.

More recently, when a BuzzFeed News story revealed that employees of China-based ByteDance frequently accessed the private information of US customers, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr ordered Apple and Google to remove the app from their stores. 

Following the study’s publication, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew wrote to Republican Senators to reassure them that the firm is collaborating with Oracle to protect the data of its US customers “with comprehensive, independent monitoring.” Additionally, he stated that TikTok is aiming to entirely switch to Oracle cloud servers in the US so that it may remove the data of US users from its systems.

Mr. Chew offered guarantees, but they weren’t sufficient to alleviate officials’ worries. In a recent warning to US lawmakers, FBI Director Chris Wray said that the Chinese government might use TikTok to “technically breach” millions of devices or conduct “influence operations” through its algorithm for suggesting videos.

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