US House boots TikTok from government phones • The Register

US House boots TikTok from government phones • The Register


The US government’s New Year’s resolution for 2023: no more TikTok at work.

And the US House of Representatives isn’t waiting until January 1 to get started. In an email to members and staff Tuesday, the Committee on House Administration (COA) banned the use of TikTok from House-managed mobile devices.

“The Office of Cybersecurity has been deemed the TikTok mobile application to be a high risk to users due to a number of security risks,” the email reads.

The viral short-form video platform, developed by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, has been a source of security and privacy concerns for several years now, with some worrying the platform could be used to spy on US citizens. It appears those concerns were justified. Late last week, ByteDance revealed that its employees had accessed the user data of journalists to find the source of leaked company information.

This isn’t the first time ByteDance has mishandled user data either. In July, the company admitted that employees in China had access to US user data.

Moving forward, anyone working in the lower chamber who downloads or fails to remove the app will be contacted by the COA Office of Cybersecurity, according to the statement. However, the ban won’t be limited to the House for much longer.

A broader measure that would ban the app on all federally-managed devices was included in the $1.66 trillion omnibus spending bill passed last week. The bill now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature.

Efforts to ban the app have also gained traction at the state level. Late last month, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signed an executive order prohibiting the use of TikTok on state-managed devices by government agencies, employees, and contractors. According to Reuters, South Dakota is one of at least 19 state governments that have banned the app.

Some congress members have called for TikTok to be banned from the US entirely. In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI) — two of three congress members behind the Federal legislation — argued for just that.

This isn’t the first time a US politician has tried to give TikTok the boot. In 2020, then President Donald Trump issued an executive order labeling TikTok and WeChat as a “threat,” and banned transactions with either. The Trump administration later attempted to force the sale of TikTok’s US operators to a domestic buyer.

TikTok may yet avoid getting booted from the US. ByteDance is in ongoing discussions with the US government to resolve security concerns. These efforts have included routing all US user traffic through Oracle Cloud Infrastructure beginning in June. However, as we already know, this hasn’t stopped TikTok employees from accessing US user data. ®

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