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Gov. Hogan orders TikTok ban for Maryland state employees because of cybersecurity risk

Gov. Hogan orders TikTok ban for Maryland state employees because of cybersecurity risk
Gov. Hogan orders TikTok ban for Maryland state employees because of cybersecurity risk 02:41

BALTIMORE - Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an emergency directive to prohibit the use of TikTok, and other China and Russia-based products and platforms for state government officials.

TikTok is known for its viral videos and for exploding in popularity during the pandemic.  

"My daughter taught me over COVID that you can learn a lot in 15 seconds," La-Wanda Carter of Baltimore said.

The social media platform is now being scrutinized over cybersecurity concerns.  Lawanda Carter of Baltimore said her job has done the same.

"We've had to eliminate the app from our phones," Carter said.

Governor Hogan said in a statement that those platforms present a cybersecurity risk to the state, including "cyber-espionage, surveillance of government entities, and inappropriate collection of sensitive personal information."

"There may be no greater threat to our personal safety and our national security than the cyber vulnerabilities that support our daily lives," Governor Hogan said. "As the cyber capital of America, Maryland has taken bold and decisive actions to prepare for and address cybersecurity threats. To further protect our systems, we are issuing this emergency directive against foreign actors and organizations that seek to weaken and divide us."

The directive—issued by the state's Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)—applies to TikTok; Huawei Technologies; ZTE Corp; Tencent Holdings, including but not limited to: Tencent QQ, QQ Wallet, and WeChat; Alibaba products, including but not limited to: AliPay; and Kaspersky.  

TikTok is a video-sharing app, owned by the Chinese technology company ByteDance.

Under this directive, agencies must remove any of these products from state networks, implement measures to prevent the installation of these products, and implement network-based restrictions to prevent the use of, or access to, prohibited services.

"This action represents a critical step in protecting Maryland State systems from the cybersecurity threats caused by foreign organizations," State CISO Chip Stewart said.

Governor Hogan isn't the only one calling TikTok into question. Several other federal government leaders are too including the director of the FBI. He's worried the company that owns TikTok could be spying on you.

Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray reiterated that TikTok is a threat to national security, stating: "The Chinese government has shown a willingness to steal Americans' data on a scale that dwarfs any other." 

In Wisconsin, Republican representatives in Congress called on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to delete the video platform TikTok from all state government devices, calling it a national security threat.

The request comes a week after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, banned state employees and contractors from accessing TikTok on state-owned devices, citing its ties to China. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, also a Republican, banned TikTok from all state government devices.  

WJZ spoke with some Johns Hopkins students who believe personal use of the app is harmless, as long as you're smart about it. 

"You have to be careful what you post regardless of the platform," Johns Hopkins Student Juan Marrero said.

Now that this ban is in effect, state agencies will have to remove TikTok from their networks and implement restrictions, so it cannot be installed or used on government devices.

TikTok sent WJZ this statement:

"We believe the concerns driving these bans are largely fueled by misinformation about our company. We are always happy to meet with state policymakers to discuss our privacy and security practices. We are disappointed that the many state agencies, offices, and universities that have been using TikTok to build communities and connect with constituents will no longer have access to our platform."

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