North Carolina and Wisconsin became the latest states this week to ban TikTok, the popular China-based video-sharing mobile app, from government-issued devices.
They join the federal government and 25 state governments to make such a move.
Bans on internet-enabled devices such as cell phones, tablets and computers have been increasing exponentially since November, when FBI director Chris Wray voiced concerns that the Chinese government could use the app, owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, to exploit Americans. User data for controlling spying operations and mobile device software.
In late December, Wray warned in his testimony before Congress that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could potentially use TikTok’s app to manipulate content for influence operations. Concerns arise from Chinese laws that allow the CCP to force domestic and foreign companies operating within its borders to share user data.
Globally, TikTok, known as Douyin in its home market and operated as a separate app, has more than 1 billion monthly active users. According to DataReportal, the company has an estimated 140.6 million monthly users as of July 2022 in the US.
TikTok testified before members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee in September. COO Vanessa Pappas He refused to promise that the company and its parent company, ByteDance, would refrain from collecting Americans’ data and sending it to China and its employees based in China.
Months later, on December 1, South Dakota became the first state to ban the practice in an executive order signed by Republican Governor Kristi Noem. The order says the purpose of the ban is to protect users’ stored browsing data, keystrokes and location information.
In June, ahead of Wray’s public concerns, Emily Baker-White of Buzzfeed News reported that ByteDance employees had repeatedly accessed non-public information of US TikTok users.
A subsequent investigation by White for Forbes revealed that ByteDance had accessed data of US TikTok users for surveillance operations. Confronted with internal audio recordings obtained in the investigation, the company admitted that it eavesdropped on journalists’ IP addresses to track their employees’ physical locations. Forbes also reported that about two dozen ByteDance executives and several hundred employees are currently or formerly employed in China’s state-run media outlets.
On December 29, President Joe Biden signed into law a law banning federal employees from using the app on devices issued by the federal government. Some exceptions to the law apply to devices issued to employees serving in law enforcement, national security, and research positions.
The Foreign Investment Committee (CFIUS) in the US, which oversees the national security concerns posed by foreign investment in the US, also works to oversee TikTok’s US operations to protect American interests.
A Senate bill introduced on December 13 by Republican lawmaker Marco Rubio (FL) seeks to block and ban all transactions by any social media company operating within or under the influence of China, Russia and certain other relevant countries. The title of the bill is the Chinese Communist Party Law, or ‘Preventing the National Threat to Internet Surveillance, Repressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Law’.
Alexis Keenan is legal correspondent for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.
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