Orange County leaders are banning China-based social media app TikTok from county-issued devices and equipment following recommended federal guidelines.
County supervisors unanimously approved the ban March 14 to ensure the security of county data from potential hacking by the communist regime of China, according to a county statement.
Vice Chairman Andrew Do, who proposed the ban along with Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, said in a March 14 statement the county is taking “proactive steps” to ensure the county is protected.
Barnes echoed Do’s concern in the same statement, saying that the action is necessary to combat the national security threat posed by TikTok.
KC Roestenberg, the county’s chief information officer, also said in the same statement that China-based apps are a risk to county information and data.
Because TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is headquartered in Beijing, China, the Chinese regime may demand TikTok hand over private user data to authorities without a warrant, according to the county’s statement.
Such data—which is recorded by the app regardless of whether the user uploads any content—could potentially be used by the Chinese regime to identify, arrest, or persecute political opponents, religious groups, ethnic minorities, and social activists, the statement said.
“By banning TikTok from county devices, we will mitigate the high-security risks associated with the app and ensure the protection of our constituent’s private data,” Roestenberg said. “Social media plays an important role in the county’s ability to communicate and perform community outreach. As such, it is critical that the social media platforms we use are trusted and comply with a reasonable level of regulation.”
The county’s ban on TikTok follows the guidance of the federal government Feb. 27, which issued a memo last month banning TikTok on government devices citing cybersecurity concerns.
The White House March 7 also supported a U.S. Senate bill called the RESTRICT Act that would grant the government the ability to ban foreign apps and technology if officials fear they pose a threat to national security.
Additionally, both county and state officials have expressed concern over TikTok’s influence on children and youth.
In the statement, Barnes warned the public of the negative influence of the social media app on children.
“I also encourage the public, particularly parents, to consider the potential for compromised data and negative influence on users and take action to secure your personal devices,” Barnes said.
Earlier this month, California Attorney General Rob Bonta launched an investigation into TikTok’s potential involvement in the worsening mental health crisis among children.
Bonta’s investigation will examine the potential mental health harms TikTok can cause to young users, along with “what TikTok knew about those harms”—including techniques used to boost young user engagement and increase the amount of time and frequency spent on the app, according to a March 2 statement.