New York could ban TikTok from state-issued phones over espionage threat in China

A bill introduced in the state Legislature would ban New York City employees and contractors from downloading TikTok to government-issued electronics over fears of Chinese spying.

“Downloading an app like this on government phones or devices is a threat,” Senator Kevin Thomas told The Post on Monday.

The proposed ban would cover cellphones, computers and other internet-enabled gizmos, with the restrictions taking effect immediately if Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the bill into law once it passed the state’s Senate and Assembly, according to legislative language.

National security experts recently warned that data released on the China-based social media platform could end up in the hands of the ruling Community Party, although ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, has argued steps are being taken to keep user data in to protect the United States

A TikTok representative could not be reached Monday for comment on proposed legislation to make New York the latest place to restrict the video-heavy app, which is particularly popular with Gen Z members.

A hand holding a smartphone with TikTok
US officials have warned that the Chinese government could access TikTok users’ data.
Only Photo via Getty Images

A spokesman for the State Office of Information Technology Services told The Post Monday that New York began restricting its employees’ use of TikTok two years ago.

“We recognize that social media platforms have become an integral part of how we communicate and share information, and to that end TikTok is used in an extremely limited way, even for sanctioned social media properties,” said the speaker.

States like Texas, Maryland, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Nebraska have already taken steps to block TikTok on taxpayer-funded devices.

While the idea won’t go anywhere until the New York State Legislature reconvenes next year, Thomas’ bill is already garnering bipartisan support.

“TikTok is owned by a Chinese company and needs to share personal data with the (Chinese Community Party). I would support such a ban on government-owned phones,” Senator George Borello (R-Chautauqua) told The Post on Monday.

Privacy experts have warned of the privacy dangers of TikTok alongside US-based apps like Facebook and Twitter, which collect data on what their users are doing.

A man on a podium surrounded by other people
State Sen. Kevin Thomas wants to ban TikTok for state-issued electronics.
Bridget Stelzer

“If we start banning TikTok from government phones, we should also ban Facebook, Instagram and American tech companies,” Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, said of the bill.

“TikTok is incredibly creepy and invasive, but I think that’s what makes it so similar to a lot of American tech companies – not what sets it apart.” [But] I always worry that a lot of people only quickly recognize these concerns when it comes to a Chinese company,” he added. New York could ban TikTok from state-issued phones over espionage threat in China


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