Senate approves measure to ban TikTok from government devices

Washington — The Senate unanimously approved a measure Wednesday night that would ban federal employees from using TikTok on all government devices, a move made out of security concerns over the app and its Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance. 

The measure introduced by GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, which passed by unanimous consent, comes after federal agencies like the State Department and Department of Homeland Security have banned the app on their devices over security concerns. Multiple states have banned the app on government devices for the same reason.

“TikTok is a Trojan Horse for the Chinese Communist Party. It’s a major security risk to the United States, and until it is forced to sever ties with China completely, it has no place on government devices,” Hawley said in a statement after the bill passed the Senate Wednesday night. “States across the U.S. are banning TikTok on government devices. It’s time for Joe Biden and the Democrats to help do the same.”

The bill states that the director of the Office of Management and Budget must develop standards and guidelines for executive agencies requiring the removal of TikTok, with exceptions for law enforcement and national security activities.

Hawley introduced similar legislation that passed in the Senate in August 2020. It’s unclear whether the House will take up the Senate’s measure, with just a few days left in the calendar before the new Congress. Legislation must be approved by both chambers in the same Congress to reach the president’s desk. GOP Sens. Tom Cotton, Rick Scott, Marco Rubio and Bill Cassidy cosponsored this most recent measure.

As CBS News has previously reported, TikTok, with more than 1 billion monthly users across the world, tracks users’ personal information, including phone numbers, email addresses, contacts and WiFi networks. U.S. officials have warned that the Chinese government could force the company to share its data.

“We do have national security concerns,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said last month. “They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users.”

Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas, told CBS News this week that the concern is overstated and “makes for good politics.” He said TikTok collects less data than other social media apps and is working to move user data to servers in the U.S., out of reach of China.