WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House on Monday gave government agencies 30 days to ensure they do not have the Chinese app TikTok on federal machines and systems.
In an effort to keep US data safe, all federal agencies should remove TikTok from phones and systems and block internet traffic from reaching the company, Shalanda Young, director of the agencies’ Office of Management and Budget, said in a guidance note seen by Reuters.
The ban, ordered by Congress late last year, follows similar actions by Canada, the European Union, Taiwan and more than half of the US states.
The device ban — while affecting a small portion of TikTok’s user base in the US — is adding fuel to calls for an outright ban on the video-sharing app. National security concerns about China have escalated in recent weeks after a Chinese balloon drifted over the United States
TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance, said those concerns were fueled by misinformation and denied using the app to spy on Americans. The action does not affect the more than 100 million Americans who use TikTok on private or company-owned devices. TikTok did not immediately comment on the White House memo.
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Congress voted in December to prevent federal employees from using the Chinese-owned video app on government-owned devices and to give the Biden administration 60 days to issue the agency’s directives. The vote was the latest action by US lawmakers to clamp down on Chinese companies amid national security concerns that Beijing could use them to spy on Americans.
“These guidelines are part of the administration’s ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the security and privacy of the American people,” said Federal Chief Information Security Officer Chris DeRocha.
Several government agencies including the White House, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of State banned TikTok from government agencies ahead of the vote.
Young’s memo said the TikTok ban does not apply if there are national security, law enforcement, or security research activities involved, but those activities must be approved by agency leadership, and “no sweeping exceptions that apply to an entire agency are allowed.”
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is set to vote on Tuesday on a bill that would give President Joe Biden the power to ban TikTok from all US devices.
“The bill I submitted authorizes the administration to ban TikTok or any software applications that threaten the national security of the United States,” said Rep. Mike McCaul, the committee chair. “Anyone who has TikTok downloaded to their device has given (the Chinese Communist Party) a backdoor to all their personal information. It’s a spy balloon in their phone.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said it opposes a congressional ban on TikTok.
The White House memo said that within 90 days, the agencies must process any use of TikTok by IT vendors through contracts, and with 120 days the agencies would include a new ban on TikTok in all new orders.
Earlier on Monday, Canada announced a ban on TikTok from government-issued devices, saying it presented an “unacceptable” level of risk to privacy and security, adding to the growing rift between the two countries.
A TikTok spokesperson said the Canadian ban was issued “without indicating any specific security concerns or contacting us with questions.”
The EU’s two largest policy-making institutions last week banned TikTok from employees’ phones on cybersecurity grounds.
David Shepardson News. Editing by Chris Sanders and Lisa Shumaker
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