The directive made by the Biden administration comes nearly a month after Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who led the charge to pass legislation banning TikTok from government devices, demanded that Biden’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) expedite the law’s implementation.
After the legislation passed last year, the administration had 60 days to enact the law after there had been growing national security concerns over what data the Chinese social media app collects and who is able to access the data.
For instance, as CBS News noted, “TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance could give access to user data to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco also said earlier this month that CCP requires companies doing business there to turn over the keys to their data.
“The Chinese government is not just hacking to gather our data…If a company is operating in China and is collecting your data, it is a good bet that the Chinese government is accessing it,” Monaco said. She also predicted that “The data obtained today could be used in new and frightening ways tomorrow.”
Additionally, the directive also requires that within 90 days, agencies must address any use of the Chinese social media app by IT vendors through contracts, and within 120 days, agencies will have to include a new prohibition on TikTok in all new solicitations.
Ultimately, the directive, ordered by Congress late last year, came after a bipartisan push from U.S. Democrat and Republican public officials for action against the Chinese social media app over concerns that it could surveil Americans. Additionally, some lawmakers think banning TikTok on government devices does not go far enough and would prefer a nationwide ban on all devices.
Additionally, independent from the federal government, numerous governors have announced that their states would ban TikTok from state government devices over the last year — especially in the second half of 2022 — including Ohio, Georgia, Montana, Alabama, and Iowa.
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter responded to the White House directive on Monday, saying that the ban was for “political theater”:
The ban of TikTok on federal devices passed in December without any deliberation, and unfortunately that approach has served as a blueprint for other world governments. These bans are little more than political theater.
On Tuesday morning, China also blasted the U.S. for the TikTok ban. According to CBS News, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning stated, “We firmly oppose the wrong practice of the United States to generalize the concept of national security, abuse state power, and unreasonably suppress firms from other countries.”
As of now, TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew is set to before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in March about a wide range of issues, including the platform’s relationship with the CCP and its consumer privacy and data security practices.