Chinese-owned TikTok banned from Utah government devices

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Utah’s governor said Monday that TikTok is banned on many state electronic devices.

Governor Spencer Cox (R) issued the executive order on Monday, banning many state executive employees from using social media app on government-owned phones, tablets or computers. Exempt from the ban are schools at all levels, the attorney general’s office, and the legislature and judiciary.

Cox said he was not comfortable with TikTok because it is owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance and he is suspicious of the company’s ties to the Chinese government.

As Washington falters on TikTok, Beijing exercises control

“China’s access to data collected by TikTok poses a threat to our cybersecurity,” Cox said in a press release this week. “As a result, we have deleted our TikTok account and ordered the same on all state-owned devices. We need to protect Utahans and ensure Utahans can trust security systems of State. “

The complicated relationship between the US government and the Chinese Communist Party is central to the past, present, and future of an app that features content that’s as goofy or as serious as humans can get.

TikTok is a video-based social network with a powerful algorithm that provides a wealth of content tailored to user interests and habits.

The app can collect data from users and sell that personal information, a researcher told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

Cox joins several other governors over the past two weeks who have restricted public sector use of TikTok.

Maryland, South Carolina and South Dakota banned TikTok from certain government devices over the past week, according to the Associated Press. Texas too. Nebraska blocked TikTok on government electronics in August 2020. Indiana sued TikTok last week, claiming the app exposes children to harmful content.

The governors of all these states are Republicans.

And other Republican-led states could follow, The Post reported. Six Wisconsin congressmen, including Senator Ron Johnson (right), called on their governor to ban the app. The Post reported that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) is also concerned about public purchases of tech products and services such as TikTok due to ties to “foreign countries of concern.”

Jamal Brown, a spokesperson for TikTok, said on Tuesday, “We are disappointed that so many states are jumping on the bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded and politically charged lies about TikTok. It’s unfortunate that the many state agencies, offices, and universities on TikTok in those states can no longer use it to build communities and connect with voters.

The Post published a three-part series in October about the TikTok phenomenon and how the app has given two of the world’s most powerful countries another reason to fight.

How TikTok ate the internet

Data firms have discovered that the average American viewer watches TikTok for 80 minutes a day, The Post reported, which is more than the time spent on Facebook and Instagram combined.

TikTok is similar to many social media apps, privacy researcher Sameer Patil said Tuesday, outside of international politics. “Their goal is basically to serve you targeted ads or targeted content to serve their business model,” said Patil, a computer science professor at the University of Utah who specializes in online user privacy.

The difference, he said, is that TikTok is owned by a Chinese company — and that poses a jurisdictional issue. The best way to calm fears that US data is held by the Chinese government is to make sure the data never leaves US soil, he said.

President Donald Trump in 2020 tried to rid the United States of TikTok, but said he would back down if ByteDance sold to an American buyer. But, The Post reported, the Chinese government stepped in. Since then, ByteDance has announced Project Texas, which it says aims to route all US traffic to TikTok through data centers owned by US cloud storage provider Oracle.

Follow the Washington Post on TikTok

TikTok doesn’t make its code publicly available, Patil said, so users just have to trust the company is keeping its word.

As a class exercise, Patil said he asks his students to read the privacy statements published by social media giants. “I just walked away with students who are blown away,” he said.

Students are shocked at what these companies can reap.

“You just have to assume that everything is collected and will be used as the company wants,” he said.

People are giving up not only their location, he said, but also details with vast possibilities.

Users who post videos of themselves on TikTok give away their image and voice, which can be used to create deepfake videos or power the progress of other artificial intelligences, he said. TikTok can learn more about your consumer preferences from what’s in the background of your video. Did you mention you were going on vacation somewhere? Don’t be surprised if you see ads for a hotel near your destination.

There is a more innocuous possibility, Patil said. Maybe these governors want their employees to stay focused at work.

The app is so efficient that eventually a video of TikTok itself will appear making the user wonder if they scrolled too long.

This concern is not new. Just ask Greg Kinnear’s character in Nora Ephron’s 1998 film “You’ve Got Mail,” who during one scene worriedly read aloud from a newspaper that the Virginia government had (fictionally) chose to remove solitaire from all government computers because no one had done any work. during weeks. “Do you know what that is? You know what we’re seeing here? We’re seeing the end of western civilization as we know it,” he told Meg Ryan’s character.

Patil agreed, saying social media companies don’t just exist to make users feel good.

“There’s a deliberate attempt by these companies to keep you there,” Patil said. “It’s not that users are addicted for no reason.”

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