Lawmakers in Connecticut are considering a bill that would ban the use of TikTok on government-issued devices.
The legislation was proposed by Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, who argues that TikTok poses a serious security risk to government agencies and their employees.
“The Federal Bureau of Investigations has repeatedly pointed out the danger that this application poses to government entities because of allegations that the Chinese government and the Chinese Community Party have been using the application to collect data on American citizens,” Duff testified.
Duff said the U.S. House of Representatives and federal executive offices have already banned the app from government devices.
Sen. Ryan Fazio, R-Greenwich, who also testified in support of the legislation said 25 states have already banned the app on their government issued devices.
“Our state is better safe than sorry when protecting the privacy and data of our state employees and state assets,” Fazio said.
Even though the U.S. is in the dark about TikTok and its capabilities, data that is valuable to a state employee could also be valuable to a foreign government, he added.
The issue seems to have bipartisan support.
“As we’ve seen in the federal government this is not a partisan issue,” Duff said.
The proposed ban would apply to all government-issued devices, including smartphones and tablets, and would require state agencies to remove TikTok from any devices that already have the app installed.The bill would not prohibit state employees from downloading or using TikTok on personal devices.
However, Rep. Gail Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott, had his doubts that ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, was actually using the data to spy on citizens.
“I haven’t seen any proof that they are spying on citizens,” she said. “Do you have any data, besides the news outlets?”
Duff said he serves on the National Conference of State Legislatures cybersecurity committee and they recently heard from FBI Director Chris Wray speak to the National Intelligence Committee about the issue and explain that it is a problem.
Last year, TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas responded to questions from members of both parties by saying that the company protects all data from American users and that Chinese government officials have no access to it.
“We will never share data, period,” Pappas said.
Mastrofrancesco said the FBI or the Pentagon coming in and testifying on the issue “to me that’s not hard evidence.”
“A lot of it to me seems to be smoke and mirrors, creating fear,” Mastrofrancesco said. “But I don’t believe that any government device or computer should have any apps on it that takes time away from your duties.”
Rep. Christine Carpino, R-Cromwell, said most private employers prohibit employees from downloading certain apps on their devices. She said as a large employer can’t Connecticut just do this administratively?
“That’s a call by the legislature as a policymaking body,” Duff said.