The exclusive White House sets a deadline for removing TikTok from federal devices
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House on Monday gave government agencies 30 days to ensure they don’t have Chinese app TikTok on federal devices and systems.
To ensure the safety of U.S. data, all federal agencies must remove TikTok from phones and systems and prevent internet traffic from reaching the company, Shalanda Young, Office of Management and Budget Director, told agencies in a guide viewed 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 affecting a tiny portion of TikTok’s US user base — lends additional impetus to calls for an outright ban on the video-sharing app. National security concerns over China have increased in recent weeks after a Chinese balloon floated over the US
ByteDance’s TikTok has said the concerns are fueled by misinformation and has denied using the app to spy on Americans. The promotion does not affect the more than 100 million Americans who use TikTok on personal or company-owned devices. TikTok did not immediately comment on the White House memo.
Congress in December voted to ban federal employees from using the Chinese video app on state-owned devices, giving the Biden administration 60 days to issue regulatory orders. The vote was the latest move by US lawmakers to crack down on Chinese companies amid national security concerns Beijing could use them to spy on Americans.
Chris DeRusha, the federal chief information security officer, said, “These guidance are part of the government’s ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the security and privacy of the American people.”
Many government agencies including the White House, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and State Department had banned TikTok before voting on government devices.
The TikTok ban doesn’t apply when there is national security, law enforcement, or security research activity, but agency senior management must approve those activities, Young’s memo said, and “blanket exceptions that apply to an entire agency are not allowed.”
On Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote on a bill that would give President Joe Biden the power to ban TikTok from all US devices.
“My bill authorizes the government to ban TikTok or any other software application that threatens U.S. national security,” said Rep. Mike McCaul, the committee’s chair. “Anyone who downloaded TikTok onto their device gave the (Chinese Communist Party) a backdoor to all their personal information. It’s a spy balloon in your phone.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said it opposes a congressional ban on TikTok.
The White House memo says authorities must address any use of TikTok by IT vendors through contracts within 90 days, and with 120 days, authorities will include a new ban on TikTok in all new requests.
Canada on Monday announced a ban on TikTok on government-issued devices, saying it posed an “unacceptable” risk to privacy and security, adding to the growing rift between the two countries.
The Canadian ban was issued “without stating any specific safety concerns or contacting us with questions,” a TikTok spokesman said.
The two largest political institutions in the European Union last week banned TikTok from employees’ phones over cybersecurity concerns.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Sanders and Lisa Shumaker)