Republican governors step up TikTok bans on state devices – Spectrum News NY1

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A growing swath of states across the country are banning employees from downloading the TikTok app on government devices, many citing privacy and security concerns that could stem from the video-sharing app. 
Some of the pushback against TikTok dates back to former President Donald Trump’s administration, when the president attempted to order a sweeping ban on dealings with the app’s Chinese owners. In 2020, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts was among one of the first state leaders to ban the Chinese app on state government phones
The newly enacted pieces of legislation come as intelligence experts have, in recent weeks, issued separate warnings surrounding TikTok, owned by Chinese-based company ByteDance. FBI Director Chris Wray recently warned that control of the popular video sharing app is in the hands of a Chinese government “that doesn’t share our values.”
Wray said the FBI was concerned that the Chinese had the ability to control the app’s recommendation algorithm, “which allows them to manipulate content, and if they want to, to use it for influence operations.” He also asserted that China could use the app to collect data on its users that could be used for traditional espionage operations.
On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the “Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act,” or the “ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act,” which would force President Joe Biden to "block and prohibit" transactions made by TikTok and its parent company. 
While that bill makes its way through Congress, a number of Republican governors have taken matters into their own hands, with over half a dozen banning government employees from downloading the app onto government-owned devices. Lawmakers in other states have levied lawsuits against the company, or have encouraged leaders to take action in reducing the app’s reach. 
TikTok said in a statement Wednesday that it’s “disappointed that so many states are jumping on the bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded, politically charged falsehoods about TikTok. It is unfortunate that the many state agencies, offices, and universities on TikTok in those states will no longer be able to use it to build communities and connect with constituents.” 
Here are the states that are restricting access to TikTok in one form or another:
Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday sent a memo to state agencies saying the use of TikTok would be banned from government-issued devices and from the state network, advising the department heads to “immediately take all necessary steps to prevent TikTok from accessing sensitive state data.”
“After we discussed this with our [Office of Information Technology] secretary, I came to the no-brainer decision to ban the use of the TikTok app on our state devices and network,” Ivey said in a statement to Alabamans, per local news outlets. “Look, I’m no TikTok user, but the evidence speaks for itself, and I want to make sure I’m doing everything we can as a state to stand against this growing security risk.”
On Tuesday, Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a directive to the Iowa Department of Management’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, effective immediately, that would not only ban all state-own devices from downloading TikTok, but would also prohibit any state agency from making an account on the app. 
“It is clear that TikTok represents a national security risk to our country and I refuse to subject the citizens of Iowa to that risk,” Gov. Reynolds wrote in a statement. “They trust us with their personal and confidential information and we will take every step possible to protect it, including from the Chinese government. The safety of Iowans is my number one priority and that includes their cybersecurity.” 
In early December, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said his office was banning the use of TikTok and certain China and Russia-based platforms in the state’s executive branch of government, citing an unacceptable cybersecurity risk to the state.
The Republican governor, who is leaving office next month, announced an emergency cybersecurity directive to prohibit the use of the platforms, saying they may be involved in cyber-espionage, surveillance of government entities and inappropriate collection of sensitive personal information.
Under the directive, state agencies must remove any of these products from state networks. Agencies also are required to implement measures to prevent installation of these products, and put in place network-based restrictions to prevent the use of, or access to, prohibited services.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum banned the popular social media app TikTok from devices owned by the state government’s executive branch.
Burgum announced the executive order late Tuesday. In addition to prohibiting downloads of TikTok on government-issued equipment or while connected to the state’s network, it bars visiting the TikTok website.
“Protecting citizens’ data is our top priority, and our IT professionals have determined, in consultation with federal officials, that TikTok raises multiple flags in terms of the amount of data it collects and how that data may be shared with and used by the Chinese government,” Burgum said in a statement. “Reducing this security risk is the right thing to do, and we would offer [North Dakota Information Technology]’s support to assist and advise any partner entities that wish to pursue similar measures.”
Last week, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster requested that the Department of Administration, which manages all state government-issued devices, remove TikTok and block access from all cell phones, computers and other electronic devices. 
“Protecting our State’s critical cyber infrastructure from foreign and domestic threats is key to ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of our citizens and businesses,” McMaster added. “Federal law enforcement and national security officials have warned that TikTok poses a clear and present danger to its users, and a growing bi-partisan coalition in Congress is pushing to ban access to TikTok in the United States.”
In late November, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was one of the first state leaders this year to issue an executive order banning state employees and contractors from accessing the video platform TikTok on state-owned devices, citing its ties to China.
“The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people, and they gather data off the devices that access the platform,” Noem said in a statement.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week banned the use of TikTok on government-issued devices across all state agencies, saying the order came amidst the threat of the Chinese Communist Party gaining increased access to important U.S. information and infrastructure.  
“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 wrote in a letter to state leaders. 
“While TikTok has claimed that it stores U.S. data within the U.S., the company admitted in a letter to Congress that China-based employees can have access to U.S. data. It has also been reported that ByteDance planned to use TikTok location information to surveil individual American citizens,” the letter continued.
State agency leaders are required to ban officers and employees from downloading or using TikTok on government-issued devices, including cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other devices that can connect to the internet.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, on Monday issued an order banning state government employees from downloading TikTok on their state-owned electronic devices, or from visiting the TikTok website. 
“China’s access to data collected by TikTok presents a threat to our cybersecurity,” Gov. Cox wrote in a statement. “As a result, we’ve deleted our TikTok account and ordered the same on all state-owned devices. We must protect Utahns and make sure that the people of Utah can trust the state’s security systems.”
The order takes effect immediately. 


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