More headaches for TikTok’s owner, as more US states join the ban on the popular short-video sharing app.

Beijing-based ByteDance is already dealing with Taiwan earlier this month opting to ban TikTok and other Chinese software from government devices and platforms.

Taiwan had banned TikTok from public sector communications devices as it has been listed as a product that endangers national information and communication security.

US States

At the same time the US state of Texas and South Dakota also banned TikTok from government-owned devices – citing threats to user data.

The US state of Maryland soon followed suite.

South Carolina Republican Govenor Henry McMaster has also asked the state’s Department of Administration to ban TikTok from all state government devices.

TikTok has been banned on Nebraska state electronic devices since August 2020, and the US armed forces also prohibited the app on military devices.

But now Reuters reported that Alabama and Utah on Monday joined those other US states prohibiting the use of TikTok on state government devices and computer networks due to national security concerns.

“Disturbingly, TikTok harvests vast amounts of data, much of which has no legitimate connection to the app’s supposed purpose of video sharing. Use of TikTok involving state IT infrastructure thus creates an unacceptable vulnerability to Chinese infiltration operations,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement.

Her directive also orders executive branch agencies to take all necessary steps to prevent TikTok from accessing sensitive state data.

Indiana has also sued TikTok, alleging that it is deceiving users about China’s access to their data and is exposing children to mature content.

Last month FBI Director Chris Wray, according to the Associated Press, warned that control of the popular video sharing app is in the hands of a Chinese government “that doesn’t share our values.”

“All of these things are in the hands of a government that doesn’t share our values, and that has a mission that’s very much at odds with what’s in the best interests of the United States. That should concern us,” Wray told an audience at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

National Security

But Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr, who has been championing a ban on TikTok for a while now and who welcomed Taiwan’s ban, said in a tweet on Monday that at least nine states have taken action on TikTok “based on the serious security threats it presents.”

Brendan Carr is a Republican Commissioner and former US President Donald Trump in 2020 actively tried to ban TikTok in the US, and even tried to force its sale to a US owned entity.

In June 2021, President Joe Biden overturned Trump’s executive orders that sought to ban TikTok downloads, and directed the Commerce Department to conduct a review of security concerns posed by the apps.

TikTok denials

“We’re disappointed that so many states are jumping on the bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded, politically charged falsehoods about TikTok,” a TikTok spokesperson was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement.

In October TikTok denied a media report that it had ‘targetted’ US citizens, and insisted it did not collect precise GPS location data.

TikTok is of course hugely popular among the young, but security worries have surrounded the platform for a while now.

In August a number of British MPs warned that TikTok data “is routinely transferred to China”, and the UK Parliament closed down its TikTok account, after just one week of operation.

China-based firms are legally obliged under the Chinese ‘2017 Intelligence Security law’ to hand over data to Beijing if requested.

TikTok has previously insisted it has never provided user data to the Chinese government, and its user data is stored in the US and Singapore – moving to Ireland in 2023 when its new data centre opens.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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