Senators want to ban TikTok from US government devices over espionage fears

The Republican senators are concerned about TikTok's links to China's Communist Party.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
2 min read

TikTok is under scrutiny in the US.

Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Two US senators proposed a bill on Thursday that would see social video app TikTok banned from all government devices over espionage concerns.

Republican senators Josh Hawley, of Missouri, and Rick Scott, of Florida, say that links between TikTok and the Chinese Communist Party mean the app could pose a national security risk if used for spying.

"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," said Hawley in a statement. "The company even admitted it collects user data while their app is running in the background -- including the messages people send, pictures they share, their keystrokes and location data, you name it." The app has "no place" on government devices, he added.

The company said it's been taking steps to allay worries.

"While we think the concerns are unfounded, we understand them and are continuing to further strengthen our safeguards while increasing our dialogue with lawmakers to help explain our policies," said a spokesman for TikTok in a statement. "We also recently announced a transparency center in LA which will give third party experts insight into our source code, and our efforts around data privacy, security and moderation practices."

If passed, the bill would mean that no employee of the United States, officer of the United States, member of Congress, congressional employee, or officer or employee of a government corporation could download the app onto a work device. The ban would also extend to any other apps created by TikTok's parent company, ByteDance.

There is precedent for such bans by the Trump administration, which has also outlawed the sale of Huawei devices in the country, as well the use of its networking equipment -- again due to that company's purported coziness with China's governing Communist Party. Huawei has consistently denied these links, but the company's presence in the US remains minimal regardless.

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