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Texas Joins a Growing List of States to Ban TikTok in Government

Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a ban on the use of the popular social media platform on all government-issued devices. The move comes amid growing concern about the implications of the company’s ties to the Chinese government.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
(TNS) — Gov. Greg Abbott is banning the use of TikTok on all government-issued devices in Texas amid fears of the Chinese government using the popular app for espionage.

"TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users' devices — including when, where, and how they conduct Internet activity — and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government," Abbott said in a letter he has sent to all state agencies and leaders of the Texas Legislature.

His letter orders state officials to ban its officers and employees from downloading or using TikTok on any government-issued devices, including cell phones, laptops, tablets, desktop computers, and other devices capable of connecting to the Internet. In addition, each state agency will have until Feb. 15 to implement policies on the use of TikTok on personal devices.

Maryland, South Carolina and South Dakota have all issued similar bans of the app on government devices.

While Republican leaders have issued grave warnings about the potential for espionage from TikTok, some experts have dismissed the concern as overblown given how many other ways foreign actors already can scrape personal data from other sources.

Like in those states, Abbott is warning that beyond collecting data on app users, TikTok is owned by ByteDance a Chinese company that is required to comply with any potential requests from the Chinese government to hand over data collected from its users.

"We are always happy to meet with state policymakers to discuss our privacy and security practices," TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown said in a statement after Maryland announced its actions. "We are disappointed that the many state agencies, offices, and universities that have been using TikTok to build communities and connect with constituents will no longer have access to our platform."

In letters to the Texas Legislature, Abbott says he's ready to help lawmakers pass laws to codify any cybersecurity reforms that may be necessary to assure the ban is fully implemented.

The Legislature begins meeting in January.

©2022 the Houston Chronicle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.