Nebraska Governor Bans TikTok on State Devices

August 13, 2020 Updated: August 13, 2020

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) on Aug. 12 announced that the TikTok app will be blocked on all state government devices due to security concerns.

“The Chinese government has long engaged in systematic, covert efforts to access sensitive data from U.S. governments, companies, and individuals,” Ricketts said in a statement.

“As an app owned by a company based in China, TikTok is legally obligated to provide data from its users to the country’s communist regime upon request. To maintain the security of data owned by the State of Nebraska, and to safeguard against the intrusive cyber activities of China’s communist government, we’ve made the decision to ban TikTok on State devices.”

Nebraska appears to be the first to take state-level action on TikTok. The U.S. House of Representatives on July 20 voted on a measure to ban TikTok from all government-issued devices. The Pentagon last December ordered military personnel to delete TikTok from government devices. The departments of State and Homeland security followed suit in January. Wells Fargo recently instructed employees to remove TikTok, while the Democratic and Republican national committees have warned their staff against using the app.

India banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps in June, saying they posed threats to the country’s “security and sovereignty.”

President Donald Trump earlier this month issued a ban—effective in 45 days—on transactions with TikTok’s holding company, Bytedance, and Tencent, the Chinese company that owns the WeChat app.

On Aug. 5, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expanded a program dubbed “Clean Network” to prevent various Chinese apps and telecoms firms from accessing sensitive information on U.S. citizens and businesses.

Trump issued the orders under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, a law that grants the administration sweeping power to bar U.S. firms or citizens from trading or conducting financial transactions with sanctioned parties.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will identify transactions covered after the orders take effect in mid-September.

TikTok did not immediately return a request for comment.

A report by security research firm Penetrum found that TikTok does an “excessive amount of data harvesting.”

Cyber experts warn that the app acts as spyware for the Chinese communist regime. The company has denied these claims and sought to distance itself from its Beijing owner, pointing to its American board members and new chief executive. It says its servers are located in the United States and Singapore, and that it would not share user data with the Chinese regime if requested.

Concurrent with the ban, Trump gave Microsoft 45 days to reach a deal to acquire TikTok’s U.S. business from ByteDance. The president’s chief China advisor, Peter Navarro, has said that Microsoft should first divest from its own businesses in China—Bing and Skype—before being cleared to buy out TikTok.

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