Texas’ Greg Abbott, Several Republican Governors Ban TikTok on Govt Devices

Texas governor Greg Abbott asked state agencies to ban TikTok on devices issued by the government. It said that the reason behind the directive is due to the security concerns related to TikTok’s data-sharing practices with the Chinese government.

Abbott’s letter to the state agency leaders, accessed by the Guardian reads:

““TikTok 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 pointed out in his letter that ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, admitted in a letter to Congress that employees of the social media app have access to US users’ data.

He said that there were reports that ByteDance planned to use TikTok location data to carry out surveillance on individual American citizens.

Abbott said that China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law is also one of the reasons as it requires businesses to assist China in intelligence work including data sharing and added that the algorithm of TikTok censors topics like the Tiananmen Square protests since it is politically sensitive to the Chinese Communist Party.

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that a national security deal between the Biden administration and ByteDance is delayed because of several reasons, one of which is that TikTok will have to share information regarding the algorithm it uses to determine what videos to show users.

Republican lawmakers, including Abbott, have been critical of TikTok and have openly called for a ban. Indiana attorney general Todd Rokita sued the app saying its misled users and children and said it contains inappropriate content.

Following Abbott’s directive, state agencies are required to ban its employees from downloading and using the app on any government-issued device including cell phones, laptops, tablets, desktop computers and any other device capable of internet connectivity.

The Republican lawmakers are taking steps similar to the ones taken by the Indian government when it banned the app in 2021 citing that the app posed a security risk to the data and privacy of 1.3 billion Indians and it was stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data into unauthorised servers outside India.

Maryland governor Larry Hogan earlier this week ordered the ban of Tiktok and several other China and Russia-based platforms in the state’s executive government branch. Republican representatives also urged Wisconsin governor

Tony Evers to delete TikTok from all state government devices, calling it a national security threat.

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem and South Carolina governor Henry McMaster were also among those to impose bans on usage of TikTok on devices supplied by state agencies to employees and contractors.

TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown said that the bans are being imposed because there is misinformation being spread regarding the app. “We are always happy to meet with state policymakers to discuss our privacy and security practices,” Brown was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

(with inputs from the Guardian)

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