Chinese app Tik Tok, the popular short-form video hosting service, has become a cause of concern for the US government. Several US states are moving fast to ban the usage of the app on government devices. Tll now, more than 20 states including Ohio, New Jersey, Arkansas and Mississippi have banned the use of Tik Tok, which is owned by Chinese Technology conglomerate ByteDance.
Last month, US President Joe Biden had signed into law a government funding bill, that included a ban on federal employees from using or downloading Tik Tok on the government-owned devices.
Why? There is a growing perception with US lawmakers that the Chinese app, privately steals the data of US citizens which can be used by the Chinese government. US representative, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Representative James Comer Republican on the Oversight Committee, wrote to TikTok saying that information provided in a staff bearing seemed inadequate.
Some of the information TikTok provided during the staf breifing appears to be untrue or misleading, including that TikTok does not track US user locations," Republican lawmakers had said in a letter to TikTok on November 22.
The concern with TikTok goes back to 2020 when the US government's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews US acquisitions by foreign companies for potential security risk, had ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok because of fears that user data of US citizens could be passed to the Chinese Communist government. This was also the same year when Indian government banned TikTok following deadly clashes at the Galwan valley in Ladakh.
The calls for banning TikTok in US gathered momentum in November 2022, when US FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the Chinese application could harness the application to influence the users and control their devices.
Former President Donald Trump had formally signed an executive order effectively banning TikTok within the United States. TikTok sued, and the ban was never enforced.
Government employees using TikTok: In 2021, TikTok had announced that it had reached one billion monthly global users. According to the numbers from Pew Research Center, two-third of teens in US say that they use TikTok.
Because of this, some government agencies started using this app to spread their messages.
This became a cause of concern, when it came to light that the app could be privately stealing the user data from the phone and this could be used by the Chinese government.
What TikTok said in its reply: Company's spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter told NPR the company is "disappointed that so many states are jumping on the political bandwagon to enact policies that will do nothing to advance cybersecurity in their states."
She said that the company would work with the federal government to try to "meaningfully address" security concerns.
She added that the company is currently negotiating with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) over the terms of operations in this country.