The 4 million employees of the US government will no longer be allowed to download TikTok onto a device owned by a federal agency. The new rule is part of the 4100-plus page spending bill signed into law at the end of last month, reports NBC News.
It’s a new salvo in the US’s fight against the Chinese social media platform, and a proxy for the broader US-China political tensions. But not everyone agrees that banning only TikTok is a logical step if data privacy and national security are the concern. "Unless we’re also [going to] ban Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and Uber and Grubhub, this is pointless," Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, told The Guardian. "Yes, it’s possibly a bit easier for the Chinese government to gain access to data through TikTok than other apps, but there’s just so many ways governments can get data from apps."
- In a statement on the ban, TikTok said: “We’re disappointed that Congress has moved to ban TikTok on government devices — a political gesture that will do nothing to advance national security interests — rather than encouraging the Administration to conclude its national security review.”
The October Incident
Late last year, TikTok confirmed to Forbes that it had improperly tracked the locations of 3 of the publication's journalists in October. As a result, a ByteDance (TikTok's parent company) executive was fired and one resigned. The report "gives additional leverage to DOJ to say, ‘Look, the record is not positive,’” Megan Stifel, a former Department of Justice national security official turned security analyst, told NBC News.
As the power of social media apps in Silicon Valley wane, and a fractured global order intensifies, TikTok is a useful boogeyman for more than one group to point at and say "here is the cause of our problems." Will this ban lead to anything more? That is yet to see.