Gov. Greg Abbott Bans Use of Chinese Surveillance App TikTok

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has banned the use of TikTok among state agencies. This means state agents and employees are not allowed to have the popular social media application on their government-issued devices.

The ban comes amid suspicions that the Chinese use TikTok for surveillance. Experts have warned that ByteDance, which runs the app, has very invasive digital behavior.

ByteDance reportedly has strong ties to the Chinese Communist Party, and experts fear that China can use sensitive and personal information obtained from citizens’ phones to undermine or even blackmail them in the future.

In a press release issued on December 6, Abbott wrote that TikTok, which has over 85 million users in the U.S., gathers data from its users and offers them to the Chinese government. The data could contain sensitive information such as “when, where, and how they conduct Internet activity,” the governor stated.

Countering TikTok’s claim that it stores U.S. data within the U.S., the release pointed to the company’s letter to Congress, where it admitted that employees in China can access U.S. data.

“It has also been reported that ByteDance planned to use TikTok location information to surveil individual American citizens,” the governor revealed.

The measure is also in light of China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law which requires businesses to assist the country in intelligence work such as data sharing.

Per Abbott’s directives, TikTok will be scrubbed off all government devices issued to officers and employees. This covers all devices with internet connectivity, including tablets, laptops, and desktop computers.

Abbott’s TikTok ban would not be the last to hear of TikTok in regard to Texas employees, as Abbott also aims to have state agencies explore the vulnerabilities the use of the app on personal devices presents. The governor has tasked the Texas Department of Information Resources and the Texas Department of Public Safety with developing a model plan.

After the vulnerabilities have been addressed, each state agency will implement its policy to govern the use of TikTok on personal devices.

Texas employees are not the first to get banned from using TikTok. Government employees in South Dakota received the same order last month when Republican Gov. Kristi Noem banned the app in the state. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland also did the same, citing cybersecurity reasons.