WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. federal employees would be barred from using Chinese-owned mobile video app TikTok on government-issued devices under a bill that passed a U.S. Senate Committee on Wednesday, as lawmakers feared the security of users’ personal data.
FILE PHOTO: China and U.S. flags are seen near a TikTok logo in this illustration picture taken July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration/File Photo
The “No TikTok on Government Devices Act” from Senator Josh Hawley was passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and will be taken up by the U.S. Senate for a vote.
TikTok’s wide popularity among American teens have brought scrutiny from U.S. regulators and lawmakers, who fear their personal information could fall into the hands of government officials in Beijing.
TikTok, used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos, said last year about 60% of its 26.5 million monthly active U.S. users are aged 16 to 24.
Under a Chinese law introduced in 2017, companies have an obligation to support and cooperate in the country’s national intelligence work.
Earlier this week, the House of Representatives voted to bar federal employees from downloading the app on government-issued devices as part of a $741 billion defense policy bill. Lawmakers voted 336-71 to pass the proposal, offered by Representative Ken Buck.
With passage in the House and approval by the Senate Committee, the prohibition could soon become law in the United States.
Top officials in the Trump administration have also said they were considering a broader ban on TikTok and other Chinese-linked apps, and that action may be imminent.
For example, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said Americans should be cautious in using the app.
TikTok spokeswoman Jamie Favazza said the company’s growing U.S. team has no higher priority than promoting a safe app experience that protects users’ privacy.
“Millions of American families use TikTok for entertainment and creative expression, which we recognize is not what federal government devices are for,” she said.
Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Richard Chang