Republican governors in Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming banned the popular app TikTok from all state electronic devices. That includes equipment like phones, laptops and tablets, and most states also prohibit the use of the app on state-run networks. The ban is a response to “cybersecurity concerns” due to TikTok’s Chinese ownership.
TikTok has tens of millions of users in the U.S. and surpassed one billion monthly active users globally last year. The Chinese company ByteDance owns the app, and the FBI said in November that it has “a number of concerns” about TikTok’s popularity.
In a press conference in mid-December, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said he’s worried the Chinese government could have access to user data the app stores.
“It’s problematic for national security. It’s deeply problematic for personal security. And of course, state security,” he said. “We cannot in good faith allow that app on state devices knowing that there is direct access to any data that may be stored there or inputted there.”
This move by states mirror efforts at the federal level. The U.S. Senate recently passed a bill that would ban federal employees from using TikTok on government-owned devices. Several agencies, including the military and Department of Homeland Security, already ban the app. At least 14 states have restrictions in place.
Cox said in addition to security concerns, the app is causing harm to young people.
“Not just the amount of time that you get kind of trapped on there, of course, but even worse than that,” he said. “When it comes to self harm videos, addiction videos, that can lead a person into a very dark and dangerous place.”
TikTok announced enhanced efforts to secure user data in the U.S. this month, but the company has previously acknowledged that non-U.S. employees have access to information on American users. Still, the company said these recent bans are “largely fueled by misinformation.”
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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