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Gov. Greg Abbott bans TikTok on state-issued devices

Gov. Greg Abbott bans TikTok on state-issued devices
Gov. Greg Abbott bans TikTok on state-issued devices 02:36

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Effective immediately, Governor Greg Abbott has ordered all state agencies to ban the use of the TikTok on any state-issued device.

The Governor cited what he calls a growing threat posed by the Communist Chinese party.

Abbott sent a letter to state agency leaders and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan Wednesday.

He told Patrick and Phelan, "The threat of the Chinese Communist Party to infiltrate the United States continues to grow. While the federal government holds the ultimate responsibility for foreign policy issues, the State also has the responsibility and opportunity to protect itself..."

TikTok, the video sharing mobile app, is owned by a Chinese firm that employs members of the Chinese Communist Party and has a subsidiary that's partially owned by the communist Chinese.

Abbott said the company told Congress that its employees based in China can have access to U.S. data.

A law in China requires businesses to help that government in intelligence work, including data sharing.

TikTok has more than 85 million users in the U.S.

The Governor told state agency leaders to immediately ban employees and officers from using TikTok on the state's cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other devices linked to the internet.

Abbott also set a timeline for further action.

By January 15, he told the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Department of Information Resources to develop a plan for other state agencies to address vulnerabilities that result from employees using the app on their personal phones.

By February 15, each state agency will have to implement policies governing employees' use of TikTok on their personal devices.

In his letter to the Lt. Governor and Speaker, Governor Abbott said he hopes to pass legislation in the coming months to make this permanent and to make similar requirements for local governments.

His announcement comes after South Dakota, South Carolina, and Maryland have also banned the use of TikTok on government issued devices.

The use of TikTok is already prohibited by the U.S. State Department, Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security on devices issued by the federal government. 

Mitch Thornton, Executive Director of the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security at SMU, said Abbott's concerns are legitimate.

"In effect, this is allowing an avenue for such sensitive information of government users to be shared directly with the Chinese Communist government," Thornton said.

Thornton said it's also a good idea for the local governments to take similar action. 

"Plugging the hole so to speak at the lower level protects as well and keeps sensitive information from winding up potentially in the Chinese Communist Government's hands where they may be exploit it," he said.

He said the Governor is following recommendations made by the Multi State Information Sharing and Analysis Center. 

Thornton said he recommends people remove TikTok from their personal phones and computers because the app can leak sensitive information.

He especially recommends parents remove the apps from their children's devices.

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