With growing concerns over the threat of the Chinese Communist Party gaining access to critical information, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered all Texas state agencies to ban the use of the Chinese social media app TikTok on government-issued devices.
TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, employs Chinese Communist Party members, and has a subsidiary partially owned by the Chinese Communist Party. The app currently has more than 85 million users in the United States. Recent revelations about data harvesting from the app, however, have put it in the crosshairs of those concerned about China’s growing influence.
“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,” Abbott stated in a letter to all state agency heads on Wednesday. “While TikTok has claimed that it stores U.S. data within the U.S., the company admitted in a letter to Congress that China-based employees can have access to U.S. data. It has also been reported that ByteDance planned to use TikTok location information to surveil individual American citizens.
“Further, under China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, all businesses are required to assist China in intelligence work including data sharing, and TikTok’s algorithm has already censored topics politically sensitive to the Chinese Communist Party, including the Tiananmen Square protests,” he added.
Additionally, each agency has until February 15, 2023, to develop a policy regarding the use of TikTok on employees’ personal devices.
Abbott also sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, urging the state Legislature to pass legislation making the prohibition permanent, as well as to extend the ban to local governments.
“We must work together to stop the Chinese government’s efforts to collect, store, and distribute Texans’ data and personal information,” said Abbott.
The use of TikTok is currently banned by the U.S. Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security. With this action, Texas joins North Dakota, Maryland, and South Dakota in prohibiting the use of TikTok on government-issued devices.