TikTok Banned From Government Devices in South Dakota, USA
The popular social media and entertainment app TikTok has been banned from use on all devices held by government employees in the state of South Dakota. The action has come about because authorities in the state believe that the original Chinese connection with the app poses a national security threat.
The order was signed into force on Tuesday by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. By the terms of the injunction, state employees, agencies, and contractors are no longer allowed to use the app, download it onto their phones, or access the app via the web interface.
Commenting on the move, Governor Noem said:
South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of nations who hate us. The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people, and they gather data off the devices that access the platform.
TikTok has been coming under increased scrutiny from authorities across the Western world, mainly because of the belief that the company’s owner, Byte Dance, is connected to the Chinese government.
The US in particular has become extremely concerned about the likelihood that data on TikTok’s users is being unlawfully passed back to the Chinese authorities.
There have been several calls over the past few years by US government officials to have the spread of the app curtailed, or completely banned in the country. Two years ago, the US Defense Department began instructing military personnel to delete the app from their phones, and Wells Fargo Bank also told some of its staff to do the same.
Byte Dance has made numerous attempts to defuse the situation, at one point promising to cut all ties with Chinese operators in Hong Kong. However, this hasn’t removed security agency fears that the app has the capability to send user data back to China at any time.
TikTok Does Indeed Share Data
Just three weeks ago, the company admitted that some of its employees in China have access to data from accounts in the UK and the European Union.
Although the app stores data in the US and Singapore, the company admitted that certain staff of Byte Dance across the world have remote access to user data. However, the company denies that this data is being passed to the Chinese government.
Despite these repeated assurances, authorities continue to threaten to ban the app, and many governments like that in the UK have also shut down their accounts on the platform, citing security fears.
A US security panel ordered Byte Dance to sell its American operations in 2020, and in response, the company announced that it had migrated user data onto US servers hosted by Oracle in Austin, Texas. That has clearly not done enough to calm the waters.
Much of the concern revolves around the app’s popularity. It’s been downloaded over 4 billion times and currently dominates the social media traffic metrics in almost every territory on earth.
The potential for bad actors to misappropriate user information, including ultra-sensitive data such as credit card and social security numbers, on a mass scale makes many lawmakers very, very nervous.
The saga continues, and the latest action by South Dakota reaffirms just how thin the ice under Byte Dance’s feet really is. As the executive ban states:
‘The order takes effect immediately and would apply to employees and agencies of the State of South Dakota, including persons and entities who contract with the state, commissions, and authorities or agents thereof. The order prohibits downloading or using the TikTok application or visiting the website on state-owned or state-leased electronic devices capable of internet connectivity.’
A real shot across the bows.