Gov. Mike Dunleavy is prohibiting the use of the social media app TikTok on state-owned equipment, citing national security and privacy concerns. The app is owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance, and some states and the federal government have implemented bans on the app due to concerns that the Chinese government could harness the app to influence users or control their devices.
“National security experts continue to highlight TikTok as a national security concern, including the possibility that the Chinese government may use TikTok to control data collection, influence TikTok’s recommendation algorithm and compromise personal devices,” Dunleavy said, in a memo issued in early January to state commissioners and executive staff. “Use of TikTok on state-owned electronic devices or on private devices that are connected to state networks poses a risk thata foreign government may access confidential or private data from State agencies and employees.”
The governor also said that TikTok apps already downloaded on state devices must be immediately removed and appropriate steps taken to secure that device.
Pew Research Center data shows that two-thirds of teenagers in the U.S. are using the social media app, which reached one billion active monthly users in September of 2021.
The app’s parent company, ByteDance, was created in 2010 by a then-27-year-old Chinese programmer named Zhang Yiming, who collaborated with Matt Huang, an American investor and venture capitalist.
Last year, Tik Tok had more site visits than Google and more watch minutes than YouTube, according to a recent lengthy article in the New York Times Magazine.
Maryland, South Dakota, South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Alabama and Utah have already banned use of the app on state devices.
In 2021 the Chinese government took a stake in ownership of a ByteDance subsidiary that issues operating licenses for some of the company’s most important Chinese businesses. The Chinese government then took one of three seats on the TikTok board, wielding a level of influence incommensurate with its nominal stake, according to the New York Times article.