Texas joins other states banning TikTok on state devices over China spying fears

TikTok has been banned on government devices in the state of Texas, following concerns over how the China-owned app handles user data.

Governor Abbott rallied against the app in a letter to Texas state officials on Wednesday, claiming the app “harvests” huge amounts of user data.

“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.

The app is facing growing scrutiny over fears sensitive American user data could be handed to the Chinese government.

In a case which marks the first state lawsuit against the app, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita sued TikTok on Wednesday for allegedly misleading users about Beijing’s ability to access their data as well as for allegedly showing mature content to minors.

“While we don’t comment on pending litigation, the safety, privacy and security of our community is our top priority,” TikTok said in a statement to ABC News. “We build youth well-being into our policies, limit features by age, empower parents with tools and resources, and continue to invest in new ways to enjoy content based on age-appropriateness or family comfort.”

It added: “We are also confident that we’re on a path in our negotiations with the U.S. Government to fully satisfy all reasonable US national security concerns, and we have already made significant strides toward implementing those solutions.”

On Tuesday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan put in place similar measures against, TikTok as well as the Chinese tech firms Huawei and ZTE, banning the companies use on state business and devices.

TikTok said that it believed the bans were “largely fuelled by misinformation about our company” and that it was happy to continue to have “constructive meetings” with policy makers.

Last month, an official at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) called US government to ban the platform.

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The Biden administration and TikTok have written a preliminary agreement to address national security concerns posed by the app but obstacles remain, according a September report in the New York Times.

Other stories in the media recently have cast doubt about the security of US user data regarding the app.

Buzzfeed reported in June that TikTok engineers based in China gained access to US user data, including phone numbers while Forbes reported in October that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, intended to access some user information.

In 2020, the Trump administration attempted to outright ban TikTok, calling on ByteDance to sell the app to a US company. However, that sale never occurred and TikTok remains owned by ByteDance.

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