New Jersey is the latest state to ban the use of TikTok on all state or managed devices along with 14 other social media apps.
Democratic governor Phil Murphy issued an order on Monday to remove high-risk software on state government devices.
TikTok, a popular video-based social media platform, is gradually being banned by state and federal authorities for its affiliation with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Several states have already imposed bans on TikTok, and Congress is considering a bipartisan proposal to block ByteDance, the social media app’s parent company, from conducting business transactions anywhere in the United States.
“Strengthening cybersecurity is critical to protecting the overall security and well-being of our state,” Murphy said in a statement.
“The proactive and preventative measures we are implementing today will ensure the confidentiality, integrity and security of the information assets maintained by the New Jersey state government. This determined action will ensure that the state’s cybersecurity is united against actors who may seek to divide us.”
TikTok not alone in the spell
The New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell (NJCCIC), in cooperation with the Office of Information Technology, will maintain a list of technology companies and software products that are considered cybersecurity risks to the state.
The list of banned software vendors, products and services in New Jersey now includes: Huawei Technologies, Dahua Technology, Hikvision, Tencent Holdings Ltd. and its apps (WeChat, QQ, and QQ Wallet), Alibaba products like AliPay and Alibaba.com, and TikTok and the Russia-based Kaspersky Lab.
“New Jersey’s policy of removing certain software from government-owned or managed devices, including TikTok, that is deemed to pose a high risk of potential data loss or privacy issues is part of our statewide cyber risk management program,” said Christopher Rein, chief technology officer of New Jersey the announcement.
“This follows a series of actions taken by state and private sector companies and is consistent with some of the risk mitigation actions taken at the federal and state levels. The New Jersey Office of Information Technology will be working diligently with NJCCIC to maintain cybersecurity across the state government,” Rein said.
The statement said that New Jersey authorities have been alerted to “national security concerns regarding user data that the Chinese government may request from ByteDance.”
“Analysis of different versions of TikTok found that they capture users’ keystrokes, take screen captures every few seconds, access data from the phone’s clipboard, and capture the device’s unique media access control (MAC) address, among other user information.”
governor Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, also issued an executive order banning the use of TikTok from government devices on Sunday, the first day of his second term as governor.
“Social media applications and platforms operating in China engage in covert privacy and cybersecurity practices, including collecting private information, usage behavior data, biometric data, and other data contained on users’ devices,” it says in the arrangement.
TikTok is also added to Ohio’s list of banned Chinese-owned apps and websites, including WeChat.
Total US ban is increasingly likely
Congressional lawmakers passed a TikTok ban on government devices for all federal employees, which was included in the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package that passed in late December.
Both the Senate and House of Representatives also have pending bills that would eventually stop the app and its parent company from conducting business transactions across the country.
“It is troubling that instead of encouraging the government to complete its national security review of TikTok, some members of Congress have decided to push for a politically motivated ban that will not advance the national security of the United States,” ByteDance said in an opinion.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Brendan Carr told Fox Business last month, “I think by the end of this week, the fundamental question has really changed,” Carr said. “It’s no longer a question of whether TikTok will be banned in the US given its current operations, but a matter of when.”