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Texas bans TikTok on government devices amid China data-sharing fears | TikTok

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Texas governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday ordered state agencies to ban TikTok on government-issued devices, citing security concerns of the app’s data-sharing practices with the Chinese government.

“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,” according to one of the letters the governor sent to state agency leaders.

“While TikTok has claimed that it stores US data within the US, the company admitted in a letter to Congress that China-based employees can have access to US data. It has also been reported that ByteDance planned to use TikTok location information to surveil individual American citizens,” it added.

The letter also cited China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, stating that businesses are required to assist China in intelligence work including data sharing. It recounted that TikTok’s algorithm had already censored topics politically sensitive to the Chinese Communist Party, including the Tiananmen Square protests.

Several other Republican lawmakers across the country have implemented similar TikTok bans. Indiana’s attorney general went a step further and sued the social media app, claiming the video-sharing platform misleads its users, particularly children, about the level of inappropriate content and security of consumer information.

Todd Rokita claimed in the complaint filed Wednesday that while TikTok says it is safe for users 13 years and older, the app contains “salacious and inappropriate content” available to young users “for unlimited periods of time, day and night, in an effort to line TikTok’s pockets with billions of dollars from US consumers”.

As part of Abbott’s order, state agency leaders are required to immediately ban its employees from downloading and using the app on any government-issued device including cell phones, laptops, tablets, desktop computers and “other devices capable of Internet connectivity”.

In addition, Abbott announced a direct joint action by the state’s department of public safety and department of information resources to address the app’s “vulnerabilities” on personal devices by 15 January 2023.

Every state agency will then be given a month to set its own policy regarding the use of the app on employees’ personal devices.

Abbott’s order follows in the footsteps of Maryland governor Larry Hogan, who on Tuesday also ordered the ban of Tiktok and several other China and Russia-based platforms in the state’s executive government branch.

“There may be no greater threat to our personal safety and our national security than the cyber vulnerabilities that support our daily lives,” Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement, adding: “To further protect our systems, we are issuing this emergency directive against foreign actors and organizations that seek to weaken and divide us.”

Similarly, Wisconsin’s Republican representatives in Congress on Tuesday called on governor Tony Evers to delete TikTok from all state government devices, calling it a national security threat.

“Wisconsinites expect their governor to be aware of the dangerous national security threats TikTok poses and to protect them from this avenue for CCP intelligence operations,” said senator Ron Johnson and representatives Mike Gallagher, Tom Tiffany, Glenn Grothman, Bryan Steil and Scott Fitzgerald said in a letter.

The Maryland directive comes a week after South Dakota governor Kristi Noem, also a Republican, banned state employees and contractors from accessing TikTok on state-owned devices, citing its ties to China. Similarly, South Carolina governor Henry McMaster on Monday asked the state’s department of administration to ban TikTok from all state government devices it manages. Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts blocked TikTok on state electronic devices in August 2020.

In response, TikTok said that the recent slew of bans “are largely fueled by misinformation about our company”.

“We are always happy to meet with state policymakers to discuss our privacy and security practices,” TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown told the Associated Press.

“We are disappointed that the many state agencies, offices, and universities that have been using TikTok to build communities and connect with constituents will no longer have access to our platform.”


Texas governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday ordered state agencies to ban TikTok on government-issued devices, citing security concerns of the app’s data-sharing practices with the Chinese government.

“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,” according to one of the letters the governor sent to state agency leaders.

“While TikTok has claimed that it stores US data within the US, the company admitted in a letter to Congress that China-based employees can have access to US data. It has also been reported that ByteDance planned to use TikTok location information to surveil individual American citizens,” it added.

The letter also cited China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, stating that businesses are required to assist China in intelligence work including data sharing. It recounted that TikTok’s algorithm had already censored topics politically sensitive to the Chinese Communist Party, including the Tiananmen Square protests.

Several other Republican lawmakers across the country have implemented similar TikTok bans. Indiana’s attorney general went a step further and sued the social media app, claiming the video-sharing platform misleads its users, particularly children, about the level of inappropriate content and security of consumer information.

Todd Rokita claimed in the complaint filed Wednesday that while TikTok says it is safe for users 13 years and older, the app contains “salacious and inappropriate content” available to young users “for unlimited periods of time, day and night, in an effort to line TikTok’s pockets with billions of dollars from US consumers”.

As part of Abbott’s order, state agency leaders are required to immediately ban its employees from downloading and using the app on any government-issued device including cell phones, laptops, tablets, desktop computers and “other devices capable of Internet connectivity”.

In addition, Abbott announced a direct joint action by the state’s department of public safety and department of information resources to address the app’s “vulnerabilities” on personal devices by 15 January 2023.

Every state agency will then be given a month to set its own policy regarding the use of the app on employees’ personal devices.

Abbott’s order follows in the footsteps of Maryland governor Larry Hogan, who on Tuesday also ordered the ban of Tiktok and several other China and Russia-based platforms in the state’s executive government branch.

“There may be no greater threat to our personal safety and our national security than the cyber vulnerabilities that support our daily lives,” Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement, adding: “To further protect our systems, we are issuing this emergency directive against foreign actors and organizations that seek to weaken and divide us.”

Similarly, Wisconsin’s Republican representatives in Congress on Tuesday called on governor Tony Evers to delete TikTok from all state government devices, calling it a national security threat.

“Wisconsinites expect their governor to be aware of the dangerous national security threats TikTok poses and to protect them from this avenue for CCP intelligence operations,” said senator Ron Johnson and representatives Mike Gallagher, Tom Tiffany, Glenn Grothman, Bryan Steil and Scott Fitzgerald said in a letter.

The Maryland directive comes a week after South Dakota governor Kristi Noem, also a Republican, banned state employees and contractors from accessing TikTok on state-owned devices, citing its ties to China. Similarly, South Carolina governor Henry McMaster on Monday asked the state’s department of administration to ban TikTok from all state government devices it manages. Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts blocked TikTok on state electronic devices in August 2020.

In response, TikTok said that the recent slew of bans “are largely fueled by misinformation about our company”.

“We are always happy to meet with state policymakers to discuss our privacy and security practices,” TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown told the Associated Press.

“We are disappointed that the many state agencies, offices, and universities that have been using TikTok to build communities and connect with constituents will no longer have access to our platform.”

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