Utah joins growing number of states to ban TikTok on state devices | News, Sports, Jobs

Brian Wolfer, Special to the Standard-Examiner

gov. Spencer Cox speaks at the Utah Juneteenth celebration at the Ogden Amphitheater on Saturday June 18, 2022.

SALT LAKE CITY — If you work for the state and use a state-issued mobile phone, better stay away from TikTok.

Citing security concerns, Gov. Spencer Cox issued an executive order Monday prohibiting a broad swath of state workers from using the TikTok app on state-owned phones, computers and other electronics. Utah joins a growing number of states in taking such action amid concerns about the Chinese government accessing delicate government data via the app, including Maryland, Texas, South Dakota, South Carolina and Nebraska, according to CBS news.

“China’s access to data collected by TikTok presents a threat to our cybersecurity,” Cox said in a statement. “As a result, we’ve deleted our TikTok account and ordered the same on all state-owned devices. We must protect Utahns and make sure that the people of Utah can trust the state’s security systems.”

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, headquartered in China, Cox’s statement said, noting Chinese security laws giving the Chinese government leeway to require Chinese companies to provide the government with data that firms based in the nation process. That data may include “personal data, intellectual property or proprietary information of users in the United States and Utah.”

The ban, according to Cox’s order, applies to state departments, divisions, bureaus and other organizations under the purview of the executive branch. It does not apply to state universities, the Utah State Board of Education and other state branches run by other elected officials, like the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Utah Legislature.

TikTok has come under fire from school officials in Ogden, though not for suspected security threats. Rather, school officials warned of the “potentially negative influence of social media” stemming from the “devious licks” challenge made popular on TikTok last year, which, they said, resulted in vandalism to schools.

Whatever the case, the app is popular. Weber State University, Utah State University and other state schools in Utah have TikTok accounts, generally offering up light-hearted material to promote the schools.

TikTok reps have countered security concerns stemming from use of the app, most recently in a statement last week.

“As we continue to act on our commitment to the security of our platform, we’re creating a Trust & Safety team within US Data Security to build further trust and confidence in the protection of US user data and compliance,” reads the Dec. 8 statements.

In a statement last July, the company said engineering teams around the world may need to access data for engineering functions. “That access is subject to a series of robust controls, safeguards like encryption for certain data and authorization approval protocols overseen by our US-based security team,” reads the July 5 statement.


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