Maryland bans TikTok in state agencies as the latest state to address cybersecurity concerns presented by the platform.
Maryland is banning TikTok and other specific Chinese and Russian-based platforms in the state’s executive government branch. Governor Larry Hogan announced Tuesday an emergency cybersecurity directive to prohibit the platforms’ use under the pretense of potential cyberespionage, government surveillance, and sensitive data collection.
“There may be no greater threat to our personal safety and our national security than the cyber vulnerabilities that support our daily lives,” said Hogan. “To further protect our systems, we are issuing this emergency directive against foreign actors and organizations that seek to weaken and divide us.”
The directive in Maryland comes a week after South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem banned state employees and contractors from accessing TikTok on state-issued devices. Additionally, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster asked the state’s Department of Administration on Monday to ban TikTok from all state government devices under its management.
On Tuesday, representatives in Wisconsin called on Governor Tony Evers to remove TikTok from all state government devices, calling it a national security threat. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts blocked TikTok on state devices in August 2020. The US armed forces also have prohibited the app on military devices.
“It is a risk that most governments are starting to realize it’s not worth taking,” said Trenchcoat Advisors co-founder Holden Triplett, a former FBI official who worked in counterintelligence and Beijing.
Triplett says TikTok poses an apparent vulnerability, despite debate as to whether the Chinese government is actively collecting data through the app. Since the platform’s owner, ByteDance, is a Chinese company, it would be obligated to comply with any potential requests from Chinese security and intelligence requests to hand over data.
TikTok continues to push back against vulnerability concerns. Spokesperson Jamal Brown said that the circumstances leading to the bans are “largely fueled by misinformation about our company.”
“We are disappointed that the many state agencies, offices, and universities that have been using TikTok to build communities and connect with constituents will no longer have access to our platform,” said Brown.
TikTok’s Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas, based in Los Angeles, says that the company protects all American users’ data and that Chinese government officials have no access to it. Still, just last week, FBI Director Chris Wray said China could use the app to collect data on its users that could be used for espionage operations.