House Members Ordered To Delete TikTok

Citing security concerns, the U.S. House of Representatives this week joined 19 states in banning the Chinese-owned app TikTok from government-owned devices.

The new restriction, announced by the House's Chief Administrative Officer, applies to elected officials as well as their staff.

“TikTok is not allowed on House mobile devices,” the Chief Administrative Officer said in a memo issued Tuesday. “If you have the TikTok app on your House mobile device, you will be contacted to remove it.”

The Senate hasn't taken a similar step -- at least not yet.

House Representatives and their staff, like the rest of the public, can continue to use the app on their personal phones.

The House's move comes several days after lawmakers passed a spending bill that bans the social video app from government-owned phones used by executive agencies.

At this point, the decision to prohibit House members and staff from running the app on government devices shouldn't come as a shock. If anything, the bigger surprise is that the Senate hasn't also ordered the app removed, given the reports that surfaced this year.

Among other blockbuster revelations, journalist Emily Baker-White (formerly with BuzzFeed, now at Forbes) reported in June that TikTok “repeatedly” shared users' private information with Beijing-based parent company ByteDance.

TikTok's parent company then compounded its problems by accessing  Baker-White's location history, in an attempt to figure out whether she was in the same general locale as ByteDance employees who could have leaked information to her.

Forbes reported on the spying in October, and TikTok confirmed the report last week.

Earlier this month, a trio of lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban TikTok, along with other social media apps under the control of countries including China and Russia. It's not clear whether lawmakers are willing to go that far, especially given that a countrywide ban could infringe the First Amendment rights of TikTok's millions of U.S. users. 

Meanwhile, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is currently in negotiations with ByteDance that could result in changes to how the company handles U.S. users' data. As of today, however, it doesn't appear that a final agreement has been reached.

TikTok said earlier this month that it was implementing plans to “further secure” the platform in the U.S. The company hasn't yet responded to MediaPost's request for comment regarding the new House ban.

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