TikTok is now banned on any device owned and managed by the US House of Representatives, according to Reuters. The House’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) reportedly told all lawmakers and their staff in an email that they must delete the app from their devices, because it’s considered “high risk due to a number of security issues.” Everyone detected to have the social networking application on their phones would be contacted to make sure it’s deleted, and any future downloads are prohibited.
This is but the latest the development in a series of moves the US government has made to block the app from devices it owns. Last week, lawmakers approved a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that included provisions that would prohibit the use of TikTok on executive branch devices. A spokesperson for the Chief Administrative Officer told Reuters that after its passage, the CAO worked with the Committee on House Administration to implement a similar policy for the House.
That came after the Senate unanimously voted to approve the No TikTok on Government Devices Act that was introduced by Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri). As Reuters notes, 19 states had also banned or at least partially prohibited the app’s installation and use on staff devices they own or manage. When the omnibus passed, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter told Engadget that the company is “disappointed that Congress has moved to ban TikTok on government devices,” calling it “a political gesture that will do nothing to advance national security interests.”
TikTok’s critics in the US government have been raising concerns that it could be used as a tool to spy on the US by Chinese officials. FBI Director Chris Wray called it a “Trojan Horse for the Chinese Communist Party” and said that it has no place on government devices until it completely cuts ties with China. TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, tried to address those concerns by routing all domestic traffic through Oracle servers in the US and pledging to delete all US user data from its servers.
However, the recent revelation that ByteDance fired four employees for inappropriately obtaining the data of TikTok users in the US, including that of two reporters, probably doesn’t help the company’s cause. According to a New York Times report, the employees gained access to the IP addresses and other data linked to two reporters in their quest to find out who was leaking internal information to the press.