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House bans TikTok on government devices over ‘security risks’

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    The U.S. House of Representatives banned TikTok due to security concerns on Tuesday, barring lawmakers and staffers from accessing the app on all government-issued devices.

    The policy came from an internal memo sent by Chief Administrative Officer Catherine L. Szpindor, whose cybersecurity unit found TikTok a “high risk to users due to a number of security risks.”

    “House staff are NOT allowed to download the TikTok app on any House mobile devices,” the memo stated. “If you have the TikTok app on your House mobile device, you will be contacted to remove it.”

    The move makes the House the latest government entity to raise shields against the Chinese social video platform. 

    Earlier this month, the Senate approved a similar measure for all federal employees.

    So far, 19 states have at least partially banned TikTok on government devices. Several branches of the U.S. military have imposed the same ban since late 2019.

    The Trump administration first sounded security alarms as TikTok’s — as well as WeChat’s — popularity grew in the country, even threatening a total ban unless the apps were sold to a U.S. company. 

    Last year, President Joe Biden revoked Trump’s ban attempts but ordered a security review for all foreign apps.

    In June, a BuzzFeed investigation of leaked audio recordings revealed that U.S. TikTok users’ data had been repeatedly accessed from China. One director was recorded referring to a Beijing engineer called “Master Admin” who “has access to everything.”

    In November, FBI Director Chris Wray told lawmakers that the Chinese government could use TikTok to “control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations.” He also said China could “control software on millions of devices,” which could “technically compromise” them.

    A $1.66 trillion omnibus spending bill that was passed last week to fund the government until September 2023 includes a provision to ban TikTok. Biden has yet to sign the bill into law.

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