Clickability tracking pixel

New York Bill Could Ban TikTok from State-Issued Devices

The legislation is titled the "No TikTok on Government Devices Act" and would not apply to any activity involving investigations, cybersecurity research, disciplinary action or intelligence collection.

by Cayla Harris, San Antonio Express News / June 22, 2020
The New York Capitol in Albany. David Kidd/Government Technology

(TNS) — A bill introduced in the New York State Senate last week would bar state employees from downloading the popular video-sharing app TikTok on their work phones.

State Sen. Chris Jacobs, R-Buffalo, introduced the bill on Thursday, citing security threats. TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, which has sparked data privacy concerns and accusations it censors content critical of the Chinese government. The app has already been banned within a number of federal agencies, including the departments of state and homeland security.

The legislation is titled the "No TikTok on Government Devices Act" and would not apply to any activity involving investigations, cybersecurity research, disciplinary action or intelligence collection. It mirrors federal legislation of the same name – introduced in March by two Republican senators – that would prohibit the app on U.S. government-issued electronic devices. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill that month.

Both local and federal elected officials across the aisle have raised concerns that TikTok poses a counterintelligence threat and could feed sensitive user data to the Chinese government, which in 2017 approved a law requiring Chinese companies to cooperate with intelligence efforts if asked. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York's senior senator, has repeatedly raised concerns over the app's presence on government devices.

"Due to the obvious untrustworthiness of TikTok and the nature of the data that it collects, it is more than reasonable to conclude that this application should not be downloaded or used on government-issued electronic device," Jacobs' bill memo states.

The measure does not yet have a companion bill in the state Assembly.

The app is increasingly popular among teenagers and young adults, who use the app to create short dance videos or comedy skits. TikTok and its Chinese equivalent, Douyin, surpassed 2 billion downloads in April, TechCrunch reported.

TikTok has also attracted a wider audience of adults in recent months and found its way into business' social media strategies, many of which both run their own accounts and sponsor "famous" TikTokers to use and advertise their products. It has also become a hub for social media activism. Most recently, thousands of teenagers on the app claimed victory Saturday after they say an online campaign to register and then not show up for President Donald Trump's campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., inflated expected turnout, The New York Times reported.

TikTok has repeatedly asserted that it is independent of the Chinese government, though representatives have previously declined to testify publicly before or meet privately with members of Congress to discuss company policy and security concerns.

After the Transportation Security Administration banned TikTok from government devices in February, an app spokesperson told Business Insider: "While we think the concerns are unfounded, we understand them and are continuing to further strengthen our safeguards while increasing our dialogue with lawmakers to help explain our policies. We recently reached out to several members of Congress to express an interest in meeting in the near future."

A representative for TikTok did not respond to a request for comment.

©2020 the San Antonio Express-News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Looking for the latest gov tech news as it happens? Subscribe to GT newsletters.

E.REPUBLIC Platforms & Programs