TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned video-streaming app, has now been banned on United States House of Representatives-issued devices.
The House’s Chief Administrative Officer Catherine Szpindor sent a memo to all lawmakers and staff on Tuesday, declaring the app “high risk due to a number of security issues,” and instructing all involved to delete it from all devices managed by the House. Future downloads of the app will also be henceforth prohibited.
Several states have already banned downloading and using the app on government-issued devices earlier in the month, citing concerns over the app’s data-sharing practices with the Chinese government, particularly that it could use the app to track Americans and censor content. TikTok, which blew up in the US during the pandemic, is owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd.
The House’s administrative ban comes two weeks after Republican Senator Marco Rubio announced bipartisan legislation that aims to ban the app in the US. The legislation would prohibit all transactions from any social media company based in or under the influence of China and Russia.
Last week, Taiwan launched an investigation into the app on suspicion of “illegal commercial operations,” alleging that ByteDance has broken Taiwanese law that states Chinese social media companies are not allowed to solicit business on the self-governed island. They also cited potential security issues from misuse of user data.
“The mainland side has used short video platforms like TikTok to carry out cognitive operations and infiltration against other countries, and there is a high risk the Chinese government is collecting users’ personal information,” said Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council.
ByteDance has firmly denied allegations of sharing information with the Chinese government, previously saying that these concerns are “largely fueled by misinformation.”
Early in the year, leaked audio recordings from over 80 internal TikTok meetings revealed that China-based employees of ByteDance, repeatedly accessed nonpublic data from users in the United States.
ByteDance has also confirmed that its employees used the app to track journalists’ locations using their IP addresses. The company’s employees were tracking journalists covering TikTok in an attempt to determine whether they had been in the same locations as ByteDance employees.
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