- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2020

The departments of State and Homeland Security have joined the Pentagon in prohibiting the use of the Chinese-owned social media application TikTok on government-issued devices, The Washington Times has learned.

The app’s video posts have made it popular with younger Americans, but the federal agencies increasingly view it as a cybersecurity concern.

“The TikTok App is not approved on Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) within the State Department,” a State Department spokeswoman said in a statement. “Employees are advised to only download approved commercial applications to their GFE.”

A DHS spokesman told The Washington Times that the download or use of TikTok is not approved on any department-issued devices.

Neither department publicized the decision to ban TikTok but acknowledged the move in response to inquiries by The Times.

The DHS and State Department guidance is similar to the direction the Pentagon gave its employees. Last week, the U.S. Army announced its own policy shift to ban troops from using the application.

Previously, military recruiters used the tool to reach young Americans.

Other federal agencies are more tight-lipped about their view of TikTok. A Justice Department spokeswoman said the department refrains from commenting on management decisions regarding specific applications but added that the department “does take a risk-based approach to application management.”

The federal government agencies’ and military’s recent bans of TikTok followed lawmakers’ requests that the intelligence community review the cybersecurity threat potential posed by the app and brief Congress. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, wrote the director of National Intelligence in October requesting an assessment of national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin requesting an investigation of TikTok by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which reviews the national security impact from foreign investments in U.S. companies.

TikTok did not respond to request for comment. The company did release its first-ever “transparency report” Dec. 30, with China absent from the details.

Eric Ebenstein, TikTok public policy head, wrote a blog post alongside the report saying the company thought transparency was important because “when people feel safe, their creativity can flourish.”

“TikTok is committed to assisting law enforcement in appropriate circumstances while at the same time respecting the privacy rights of our users,” Mr. Ebenstein wrote.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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