Dec 12, 2022 - Politics

Utah governor bans TikTok on state-owned devices, citing cybersecurity concerns

A cellphone with the TikTok logo on it.

TikTok logo displayed on a phone screen and TikTok logo displayed on a laptop screen are seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on Nov. 5, 2022. Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced an executive order on Monday immediately banning TikTok on state-owned devices, citing cybersecurity risks.

  • The popular video-sharing app is owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance.

What he's saying: "China's access to data collected by TikTok presents a threat to our cybersecurity," Cox said in a statement.

  • "As a result, we've deleted our TikTok account and ordered the same on all state-owned devices. We must protect Utahns and make sure that the people of Utah can trust the state’s security systems," the GOP governor said.

Details: The executive order applies to all Utah executive branch agencies that use state-issued electronic devices like phones, laptops and tablets.

The big picture: The ban comes after a growing number of GOP states like Maryland and Texas also prohibited the app in government agencies.

The other side: In a statement, TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown told Axios such decisions are fueled by misinformation.

  • "We are happy to continue having constructive meetings with state policymakers to discuss our privacy and security practices," he said. "We are disappointed that many state agencies, offices ... will no longer be able to use TikTok to build communities and connect with constituents."

Yes, and: Cybersecurity expert James A. Lewis, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a D.C.-based think tank, told Axios it's easy for officials to overstate the risk.

  • Banning TikTok on government-issued devices, he said, "doesn't actually improve cybersecurity that much," he said.

The latest: Earlier this month, the FBI warned TikTok is used by the Chinese government which "doesn't share our values" and that could "use it for influence operations."

Flashback: Former President Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban the app in the U.S. in 2020 to pressure it to sell its assets to a U.S. company. Biden revoked the measure in 2021.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include new information from a cybersecurity expert and to show universities are not affected by the ban.

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