The White House set a deadline for government employees to delete TikTok from federal devices as national security concerns about the short-form video app continue to grow. Federal agencies will have 30 days to remove the social media app from phones and systems, and prohibit devices from accessing TikTok via the internet, according to a Feb. 27 memo from the Office of Management and Budget.
“This guidance is part of the administration’s ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the American people’s security and privacy,” said Chris DeRusha, the federal chief information security officer in the OMB. Reuters previously reported on the 30-day deadline.
TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is facing scrutiny over concerns the app could pose threats to national security, including fears the company could give the Chinese government access to US users’ data. In November, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the app could be used to “control data collection on millions of users, or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations if they so choose, or to control software on millions of devices.” FCC Commissioner Brian Carr last year called the app a “sophisticated surveillance tool.”
In December, US lawmakers banned the app from government devices. Other countries — including Canada, the EU and Taiwan — have taken similar steps.
The ban could escalate already mounting tensions between China and the US. On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in a press conference that the US was “over-stretching the concept of national security and abusing state power to suppress foreign companies.”
“How unsure of itself can the world’s top superpower be to fear a young people’s favorite app like that?” she said.
TikTok has more than 100 million monthly users in the US and is also widely popular especially among teens, competing with platforms such as Facebook-owned Instagram and Google-owned YouTube. About 67% of US teens say they’ve used TikTok, according to a 2022 survey released by the Pew Research Center.
US politicians, including those in the Trump administration, have tried to ban TikTok before. The rising popularity of TikTok in the US has only increased fears about what data the app collects. In December, Forbes reported that TikTok fired employees who tracked the physical locations of journalists covering the company. US lawmakers have also been proposing legislation to address national security concerns about TikTok. The US House Foreign Affairs Committee is expected on Tuesday to advance a bill that would make it easier for the Biden administration to ban TikTok. Committee chair, Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, introduced the bill last week.
TikTok didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but the company has previously said it doesn’t share data with the Chinese government. The company also told lawmakers about a $1.5 billion plan to reorganize TikTok’s US business, The Wall Street Journal reported in January. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23.