WASHINGTON: The White House on Monday (Feb 27) gave government agencies 30 days to ensure they do not have Chinese-owned app TikTok on federal devices and systems.
In a bid to keep US data safe, all federal agencies must eliminate TikTok from phones and systems and prohibit internet traffic from reaching the company, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young told agencies in a guidance memorandum seen by Reuters.
The ban, ordered by Congress late last year, follows similar actions from Canada, the EU, Taiwan and more than half of US states.
The device ban – while impacting a tiny portion of TikTok’s US user base – adds fuel to calls for an outright ban on the video-sharing app. National security concerns about China surged in recent weeks after a Chinese balloon drifted over the US.
ByteDance-owned TikTok has said the concerns are fueled by misinformation and has denied using the app to spy on Americans. The action does not affect the more than 100 million Americans who use TikTok on private or company-owned devices. TikTok did not immediately comment on the White House memo.
Congress in December voted to bar federal employees from using the Chinese-owned video app on government-owned devices and gave the Biden administration 60 days to issue agency directives. The vote was the latest action by US lawmakers to crack down on Chinese companies amid national security fears that Beijing could use them to spy on Americans.
Federal Chief Information Security Officer Chris DeRusha said “this guidance is part of the Administration’s ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the American people’s security and privacy”.
Many government agencies including the White House, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department had banned TikTok from government devices before the vote.
The TikTok ban does not apply if there are national security, law enforcement or security research activities but agency leadership must approve these activities, Young’s memo said and “blanket exceptions applying to an entire agency are not permitted”.