The White House has ordered all federal agencies to remove TikTok from their devices within the next 30 days, citing security concerns. The Chinese-owned social media app has come under increasing scrutiny in Washington amid concerns that Beijing could gain access to sensitive government data obtained by the app.
Issued on Monday, the guidance from the Office of Management and Budget has been hailed as a “critical step forward” in protecting sensitive government data. While some federal agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State, have already implemented restrictions on the use of TikTok, the guidance calls for all agencies to do so within the next 30 days.
“The Biden-Harris Administration has invested heavily in defending our nation’s digital infrastructure and curbing foreign adversaries’ access to Americans’ data,” said Chris DeRusha, the federal chief information security officer. “This guidance is part of the Administration’s ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the American people’s security and privacy.”
The move comes after Congress passed the “No TikTok on Government Devices Act” in December, which permits the use of TikTok only for certain purposes, including national security, law enforcement, and research. The legislation has, however, been criticized by TikTok, which described the ban as “political theater.”
Despite the restrictions and to remove TikTok, TikTok remains extremely popular and is used by two-thirds of teens in the U.S. However, there is mounting concern that Beijing could gain control of American user data that the app has obtained. TikTok has dismissed these concerns, stating that it is developing security and data privacy plans as part of the Biden administration’s ongoing national security review.
Meanwhile, House Republicans are expected to introduce legislation that would give President Biden the power to ban TikTok nationwide. The proposed bill, which is being put forward by Rep. Mike McCaul, would allow the administration to ban any software applications that pose a threat to national security.
McCaul, who is the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, has been a vocal critic of TikTok, describing the app as a tool being used by the Chinese Communist Party to “manipulate and monitor its users while it gobbles up Americans’ data to be used for their malign activities.”
The ban on TikTok for federal devices has been dismissed by the app’s spokesperson as “political theater,” Canada has also announced that it is banning TikTok from all government-issued mobile devices. The European Union’s executive branch has also temporarily banned the app from phones used by employees as a cybersecurity measure.