WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Senate committee is likely to vote next week on a bill from Republican Senator Josh Hawley that would ban federal employees from using social media app TikTok on government-issued devices.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will take up the “No TikTok on Government Devices Act” at its hearing on July 22.
TikTok’s Chinese ownership and wide popularity among American teens have brought scrutiny from U.S. regulators and lawmakers.
TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, is known for its ability to create short videos. The company last year said that about 60% of its 26.5 million monthly active users in the U.S. are aged 16 to 24.
One of the company’s harshest critic, Hawley has repeatedly raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data and said he was worried that the company shares data with the Chinese government.
“For federal employees it really is a no-brainer. It’s a major security risk. … Do we really want Beijing having geo-location data of all federal employees? Do we really want them having their keystrokes?” Hawley told reporters in March when he announced the introduction of the bill.
TikTok spokeswoman Jamie Favazza said the company’s U.S. user data is stored in Virginia and Singapore, with strict controls on employee access.
TikTok “has a growing U.S. team that works diligently to develop a best-in-class security infrastructure,” she added.
Several U.S. agencies that deal with national security and intelligence issues have banned employees from using the app.
Recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States is looking at banning Chinese social media apps https://reut.rs/2DCfwQ3, including TikTok, suggesting it shared information with the Chinese government. He said Americans should be cautious in using the app. Under a law introduced in 2017 under Chinese President Xi Jinping, Chinese companies have an obligation to support and cooperate in China’s national intelligence work.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Richard Pullin)