WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican Senator Josh Hawley said Wednesday that it will introduce legislation prohibiting federal employees from using the TikTok social media app on their devices and accusing the company of sharing data with the Chinese government.
FILE PHOTO: a printed three-dimensional figure is displayed in front of the Tik Tok logo displayed in this image taken on November 7, 2019. Image taken on November 7, 2019. REUTER / Dado Ruvic / Illustration / Photo file
Hawley said the proposed ban would apply to government-issued devices and his comments added to the growing tensions between Washington and Beijing on commercial and technology transfers.
“TikTok is collecting huge amounts of data and is sharing it with Beijing; they are required to do so, “Hawley told reporters after a Senate judicial subcommittee on big technology hearings with China.
“It’s really child’s play for federal employees. It is a serious security risk … do we really want Beijing to have the geolocation data of all federal employees? We really want them to have the keys pressed, “he told reporters.
Already several U.S. agencies dealing with national security and intelligence issues have banned employees from using the app, which is rapidly growing in popularity among U.S. teenagers and allows users to create short videos.
About 60% of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the United States are between 16 and 24 years old, the company said last year.
In November, the United States government launched a national security review of the owner of TikTok Beijing ByteDance Technology Co, the $ 1 billion acquisition of the U.S. social media app Musical.ly. reut.rs/32Rva2H
Hawley did not provide details on any of the co-sponsors of the legislation and on any bipartisan support. It was not immediately clear how soon the legislation would be introduced.
His plan demonstrates broader concerns among lawmakers regarding the collection and sharing of US user data with the Chinese government. Many lawmakers are generally skeptical of China and view it as a threat to free speech, privacy and online security.
TikTok previously said that U.S. user data is stored in the United States and that China has no jurisdiction over content not found in China.
The senator, however, noted that ByteDance is governed by Chinese laws.
A TikTok spokesman said Wednesday that the company recently contacted several lawmakers to express interest in meeting them in the near future.
“Although we believe that the concerns are unfounded, we understand them and are continuing to further strengthen our guarantees, while increasing dialogue with lawmakers to help explain our policies,” added the spokesman.
Reporting of Nandita Bose in Washington; Curated by Lisa Shumaker and Muralikumar Anantharaman