REGION — A bipartisan push by federal and state officials nationwide has put TikTok and other social media apps in the crosshairs due to mounting cybersecurity and data theft concerns.
In California, state Sens. Brian Jones (R-San Diego) and Bill Dodd (D-Napa) announced Jan. 11 they have co-authored Senate Bill 74 to ban high-risk apps from state devices, including TikTok, a short-form video-sharing app that exploded in popularity during the pandemic.
Nearly 50% of all TikTok users are under the age of 34.
However, the app is also owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company based in Singapore, which international governments have accused of using the app to spy on and steal users’ data. The Associated Press reported a bipartisan concern in Washington, D.C., about the Chinese government potentially using its authority to “seize American user data or try to push pro-China narratives or misinformation.”
Currently, 26 states have enacted bans or taken action against TikTok on state devices. According to the Sacramento Bee, President Joe Biden also banned most federal employees from having TikTok on their government-issued phones.
“It’s just common sense — protecting cybersecurity is a bipartisan issue,” said Jones, the senate minority leader. “We deactivated my TikTok account and the California Senate Republican Caucus’s TikTok account. Until security officials, data, and conclusive evidence show that the Chinese government is not spying on us and using our data, we will not give the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) an opportunity to weaponize our accounts.”
Top national security officials in the Biden Administration are sounding the alarm about TikTok and ByteDance, Jones said. Under Chinese law, ByteDance must make the app’s data available to the Chinese Communist Party. Security officials note that the app could use algorithms to influence and track users and collect data for espionage purposes.
Kate Sanchez (R-Temecula) also introduced Assembly Bill 227, which applies to social media apps owned by companies headquartered in “countries of concern,” according to the Bee, including Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, China, Cuba and Russia.
According to a statement from Dodd, the state government is facing “unprecedented attacks on information security.” Dodd said the California Office of Emergency Services recently announced the state’s cybersecurity integration center was responding to an incident in the state Department of Finance.
Technology news outlets reported a global ransomware group was behind the intrusion and claimed to have stolen 76 gigabytes of data.
“Social media apps are ubiquitous in our daily lives, but there is growing concerned about information theft and data collection that comes with their use,” Dodd said. “Prohibiting these apps on state phones and other devices is a commonsense way to prevent exposure of our sensitive material and the possible tracking or data breaches. Clearly, there are bad actors out there, and we can’t afford to let them in.”