AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday issued a ban of the use of TikTok on any government-issued devices.
The governor said in a press release that the ban is due to growing threat of the Chinese Communist Party gaining access to critical U.S. information. Abbott sent letters to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Dade Phelan and state agency leaders saying the state has a responsibility to preserve the safety and cybersecurity of Texans.
Further, a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently called on Congress to ban TikTok over concerns that user data could end up in the hands of China’s government.
TikTok has more than 85 million users in the United States and is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance. Abbott said in a press release that ByteDance has reportedly planned to use TikTok location information to surveil American citizens.
“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,” one of Abbott’s letters said in part.
Abbott directed state agency leaders on Wednesday to immediately ban its officers and employees from downloading or using TikTok on any government-issued devices, including cell phones, laptops, tablets, desktop computers and other devices capable of Internet connectivity. The measure is said to be strictly enforced by an agency’s IT department.
The governor also ordered direct joint action by the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Information Resources to develop a model plan for other state agencies that would address vulnerabilities presented by the use of TikTok on personal devices by January 15, 2023.
Each state agency will then have until February 15, 2023, to implement its own policy governing the use of TikTok on personal devices.
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.Gov. Abbott
The Executive Branch is also prepared to help in codifying and implementing cybersecurity reforms when the 88th Legislature convenes, including passing legislation to make the TikTok ban for state agencies permanent.