TikTok has been banned from any devices issued by the US House of Representatives, as political pressure continues to build on the Chinese-owned social video app.
The order to delete the app was issued by Catherine Szpindor, the chief administrative officer (CAO) of the House, whose office had warned in August that the app represented a “high risk to users”.
According to a memo obtained by NBC News, all lawmakers and staffers with House-issued mobile phones have been ordered to remove TikTok by Szpindor.
“House staff are NOT allowed to download the TikTok app on any House mobile devices,” NBC quoted the memo as saying. “If you have the TikTok app on your House mobile device, you will be contacted to remove it.” The move was also reported by Reuters.
In a statement the US house of representatives confirmed the ban, saying “we can confirm that the Committee on House Administration has authorized the CAO Office of Cybersecurity to initiate the removal of TikTok Social Media Service from all House-managed devices.”
In August the CAO issued a “cyber advisory” labelling TikTok a high-risk app due to its “lack of transparency in how it protects customer data”. It said TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, “actively harvests content for identifiable data” and stores some user data in China. TikTok says its data is not held in China, but in the US and Singapore.
The U.S. House of Representatives’ Chief Administrative Officer has issued a cyber advisory on TikTok, labeling it “high-risk” with personal info accessed from inside China:
“we do not recommend the download or use of this application due to these security and privacy concerns.” pic.twitter.com/F87qwFiHhR — Brendan Carr (@BrendanCarrFCC) August 17, 2022
The CAO move comes amid multiple attempts to restrict the use of TikTok by government and state employees.
Last week Congress passed a $1.7tn spending bill, which includes a provision banning TikTok from government devices. The ban will take effect once President Joe Biden signs the legislation into law. According to Reuters, at least 19 US states have partially blocked the app from state-managed devices over security concerns. In a statement released after the Congress ban, TikTok said the move was a “political gesture that will do nothing to advance national security interests”.
This month the US senator Marco Rubio, a former Republican presidential contender, unveiled a legislative proposal to ban TikTok from the US entirely. Rubio said it was time to “ban Beijing-controlled TikTok for good”.
Biden has revoked presidential orders targeting TikTok issued by his predecessor, Donald Trump, which included requiring TikTok to sell its US business. However, the US Committee on Foreign Investment, which scrutinises business deals with non-US companies, is also conducting a security review of TikTok.
According to a recent Reuters report, TikTok is offering to operate more of its US business at arm’s length and subject it to outside scrutiny.
The office of the House’s chief administrative officer and TikTok have been approached for comment.