Mar 12, 2020 - Technology

GOP senators introduce bill to ban TikTok on government devices

The TikTok logo appears on a smartphone screen.

Photo illustration: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Republican Sens. Josh Hawley and Rick Scott are introducing legislation to bar federal employees from using TikTok on government devices, citing national security concerns.

The big picture: Chinese tech companies like TikTok parent ByteDance are drawing rising scrutiny from policymakers who argue that Beijing can tap them to harvest vast amounts of data from Americans.

Details: The No TikTok on Government Devices Act would ban all federal employees from installing "TikTok or any successor application developed by ByteDance or any entity owned by ByteDance on any device issued by the United States or a government corporation."

  • The measure wouldn't apply in the context of cybersecurity research, intelligence gathering or any federal investigation or enforcement action.
  • “TikTok is owned by a Chinese company that includes Chinese Communist Party members on its board, and it is required by law to share user data with Beijing," Hawley said in a statement. "[I]t has no place on government devices."

Context: TikTok, a wildly popular video app, doesn't collect much personal information compared to other social media platforms, and there's little public evidence that it is monitoring other activity on its users' devices.

  • But it reserves the right under its terms of service to collect location and other data, and cybersecurity experts caution that user behavior on TikTok could be used to train artificial intelligence systems.

Go deeper: Why TikTok and Huawei are in lawmakers' sights

Go deeper