Washington — Theto avert a federal government shutdown unveiled early Tuesday includes a ban on the use of TikTok on federal government devices, in what would be the most significant restriction on the app to date.
The 4,155-page spending bill, which was released overnight and has bipartisan support, orders the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration to create guidelines for executive agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. The plan and guidelines would be required by mid-February, if the bill passes Congress ahead of Friday's funding deadline.
The provision in the congressional spending bill references TikTok's Chinese parent company ByteDance, which has been the subject of increasing scrutiny as TikTok's popularity and usage has soared nationwide.
The change comes amid a wave of newly ordered restrictions on the social media app by state governments. More than a dozen states have recently banned the use of TikTok on state government phone devices, with seven doing so in the last week alone.
The omnibus spending bill orders the removal of TikTok only on executive branch agency employee phones, not on the phones used by congressional staff or Members of Congress themselves. Congressional phones, much like executive branch agency devices, are funded by taxpayers. It also includes exemptions for law enforcement purposes.
Lawmakers and experts have warned that the Chinese government could compel ByteDance to provide access to TikTok's vast trove of user data. John Carlin, who previously ran the Justice Department's National Security Division,earlier this month that the collected data can be very valuable.
"We think about data itself — people have called it the new oil," Carlin said. He worried Chinese officials could also influence what videos are shown to Americans.
"It's not just the collection or theft of that data," Carlin said. "It's also manipulating what it is that you see. And the question is for the national security professionals, do we want China determining what it is that we see here in America?"
Michael Beckerman, TikTok's head of public policy for the Americas, said earlier this month that the concern is overstated and "makes for good politics." He said TikTok collects less data than other social media apps and is also working to move user data to servers in the U.S., out of reach of China.
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