National security at center of bill that would allow ban on TikTok

Time is ticking for TikTok.

This week a bipartisan group of 12 senators unveiled legislation boosting President Joe Biden’s ability to place a nationwide ban on the social media app.

The app’s parent company Bytedance is Chinese-owned, and lawmakers fear the company could turn over users’ data to the Chinese government.

“We have certainly made clear some of our national security concerns with respect with respect to the TikTok application, which is why it’s not authorized for use on government devices,” said John Kirby, NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications.

TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is based in China, which has laws that grant government agencies the right to data stored within national borders.

Legislators fear that Chinese government officials could access sensitive personal information from American users.

News4JAX sat down with Chris Hamer, a Jacksonville-based cybersecurity expert, and asked him to weigh in.

“If the Chinese government says, ‘I want information on this user,’ they have to turn it over. So already there’s a security concern,” Hamer said.

Hamer said users have no idea what’s at stake.

“The users on TikTok are not the client, they’re the commodity. They’re being sold as advertisements, as a resource, monetary transactions,” Hamer added.

Lawmakers are proposing a law called “Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats That Risk Information and Communications Technology Act.”

TikTok is not specifically mentioned, however, it would give the U.S. more authority to ban foreign software regarded as a national security risk by the commerce department.

Hamer does not believe it will be difficult for the U.S. to ban TikTok.

“If you don’t own the device, the government can simply say it’s our device, you can’t install the software on it. If you are operating on a government facility or somewhere where it’s not public property, they can restrict which applications you have on your device or tell you to turn it off or tell you not to bring it on property,” Hamer said.

TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter issued a statement about the possible ban stating it would have a “considerable negative impact on the free speech rights of millions of Americans.”

About the Author:

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.