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Ivey latest governor to ban TikTok app on state devices

Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday banned state employees from using the app TikTok on state-owned computers and devices.

Ivey is the latest GOP governor to cite concerns about data security and the app’s Chinese parent company.

“Protecting the state of Alabama and our citizens’ right to privacy is a must, and I surely don’t take a security threat from China lightly,” Ivey said in a written statement about the ban. “After we discussed this with our (office of information technology) secretary, I came to the no brainer decision to ban the use of the TikTok app on our state devices and network. 

“Look, I’m no TikTok user, but the evidence speaks for itself, and I want to make sure I’m doing everything we can as a state to stand against this growing security risk.”

Earlier this month, FBI Director Chris Wray raised national security concerns about the popular video sharing app, saying it is in the hands of a Chinese government “that doesn’t share our values,” The Associated Press reported.

Wray said the FBI was concerned that the Chinese had the ability to control the app’s recommendation algorithm, “which allows them to manipulate content, and if they want to, to use it for influence operations.” 

He also asserted that China could use the app to collect data on its users that could be used for traditional espionage operations.

TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, a private company. It has said that TikTok Inc., which offers the TikTok service in the United States, is a U.S. company bound by U.S. laws, the AP reported.

At a Senate hearing in September, TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas responded to questions from members of both parties by saying that the company protects all data from American users and that Chinese government officials have no access to it.

Ivey’s ban on the app on state devices follows those of governors in Maryland, South Dakota, South Carolina and Nebraska. The U.S. armed forces also have prohibited the app on military devices, the AP reported previously.

“Disturbingly, Tik Tok harvests vast amounts of data from its users, much of which has no legitimate connection to the app’s supposed purpose of video sharing,” Ivey’s memo to state agencies said. “For example, when users run the TikTok app for the first time, they give Tik Tok access to information such as their device brand and model, mobile carrier, browsing history, app and file names and types, keystroke patterns and rhythms, wireless connections, and geolocation. Use of TikTok involving state IT infrastructure thus creates an unacceptable vulnerability to Chinese infiltration operations.”

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