The House on Thursday approved a bill that would ban Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials from downloading social media app TikTok onto government-issued devices.
The ban was approved as part of the Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act, which a bipartisan majority of the House passed by a vote of 230-171. The ban on TikTok, which is owned by Chinese group ByteDance, was added to the bill by an amendment approved unanimously.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), the lead sponsor of the amendment, said on the House floor ahead of the vote that TikTok “presents a significant counterintelligence threat.”
Concerns around TikTok and other Chinese tech groups, such as telecom giant Huawei, have largely stemmed from a 2017 Chinese intelligence law that requires Chinese companies to participate in state intelligence work and turn over information and data if requested.
“There are real concerns that this app could also collect information on users in the United States to advance Chinese counterintelligence efforts,” Spanberger said. “Because it could become a tool for surveilling U.S. citizens or federal personnel, TikTok has no business being on U.S. government-issued devices.”
A spokesperson for TikTok told The Hill that the company saw lawmaker concerns over TikTok as “unfounded.”
“While we think the concerns are unfounded, we understand them and are continuing to further strengthen our safeguards while increasing our dialogue with lawmakers to help explain our policies,” the spokesperson said. “We recently reached out to several Members of Congress to express an interest in meeting in the near future.”
The passage of the measure came a month after TSA voluntarily banned employees from using TikTok on government-issued phones. The Army banned TikTok from government devices in December, with an Army spokesperson describing the app as a “cyber threat.”
More legislation around TikTok is also in the pipeline, with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) announcing on Wednesday that he plans to introduce a bill to ban all federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices.
“This is a necessary step to protect the security of the United States and the data security of every American,” Hawley said.
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