By Caden Pearson
The White House on Monday ordered the removal of the Chinese-owned TikTok app from all government devices and systems within 30 days in a bid to keep U.S. data safe.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said on Twitter that the Biden administration “has made advancing our nation’s cybersecurity a top priority.”
“Today, OMB is releasing guidance on implementation of the ‘No TikTok on Government Devices Act,’ requiring agencies to cease using the app except in select circumstances,” the agency wrote.
OMB Director Shalanda Young issued the guidance to all federal agencies requiring them to prohibit internet traffic from reaching the Chinese-owned company as part of the purge.
An OMB memo states that agencies must address any use of TikTok by IT vendors through contracts within 90 days. Further, they must include a new prohibition on TikTok in all new solicitations within 120 days.
According to the memo, while some uses of the app on government devices may be permitted—such as for national security, law enforcement, or security research activities—blanket exemptions for entire agencies will not be permitted.
However, agency leaders must approve such activities, according to the memo.
Chinese Spy App
China’s laws require any company within its borders to hand over information to its ruling communist regime, including any data collected by Beijing-based Byte Dance, TikTok’s parent company.
Multiple elected officials and security experts have expressed concerns about TikTok being used as a tool for Chinese spying.
National security concerns about China heightened recently after a Chinese spy balloon floated over the United States. The surveillance balloon was shot down after several days, but not before it had moved over sensitive military installations.
The TikTok purge is part of the Biden administration’s “ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the American people’s security and privacy,” Federal Chief Information Security Officer Chris DeRusha said, according to Reuters.
The White House’s move aligns with a bipartisan ban on federal employees using TikTok on government-owned devices voted on by Congress in December. That legislation gave the White House 60 days to issue agency directives.
The more than 100 million ordinary Americans who use TikTok on private or company devices are not included in the ban.
Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced a bill (pdf) last week that would give President Joe Biden the authority to ban TikTok from all devices in the United States.
“My bill empowers the administration to ban TikTok or any software applications that threaten U.S. national security,” McCaul said. “Anyone with TikTok downloaded on their device has given the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] a backdoor to all their personal information. It’s a spy balloon into their phone.”
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is set to mark up the bill on Tuesday, according to Punchbowl reporter John Bresnahan.
The Epoch Times contacted McCaul’s office for further comment.
Bans in Multiple Countries
India, Taiwan, the European Union, and several U.S. states have already ordered similar bans. Canada also announced a ban earlier on Monday.
Canadian Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said in a statement on Monday that the country will ban TikTok from all government-issued devices by Feb. 28 over concerns the app’s data collection leaves users open to cyberattacks.
Fortier said users would also be blocked from downloading the application in the future on government-issued devices.
Canada’s ban comes amid a review of TikTok by Canadian Chief Information Officer Catherine Luelo, who determined it “presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.”
“The decision to remove and block TikTok from government mobile devices is being taken as a precaution, particularly given concerns about the legal regime that governs the information collected from mobile devices, and is in line with the approach of our international partners,” the Treasury Board said.
“On a mobile device, TikTok’s data collection methods provide considerable access to the contents of the phone.”
The European Union also banned TikTok on Feb. 25 from European Commission corporate and personal devices, citing similar concerns as the United States and other countries.
“To increase its cybersecurity, the [European] Commission’s Corporate Management Board has decided to suspend the use of the TikTok application on its corporate devices and on personal devices enrolled in the Commission mobile device service,” it said in a statement.
“This measure aims to protect the Commission against cybersecurity threats and actions which may be exploited for cyber-attacks against the corporate environment of the Commission,” it added.