10:22 GMT09 April 2020
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    US Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Rick Scott (R-FL) on Thursday introduced a new bill to ban federal employees from using the video-sharing service TikTok, owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance, on their government devices.

    Under the No TikTok on Government Devices Act, federal employees would be banned from installing “TikTok or any successor application developed by ByteDance or any entity owned by ByteDance on any device issued by the United States or a government corporation." TikTok is a popular app, with more than 1.5 billion downloads globally as of 2019, according to a report by the Business Insider.

    According to the US lawmakers, Chinese tech companies could potentially gain access to data from Americans through applications like TikTok due to a 2017 Chinese law that requires private Chinese companies to share user data for state intelligence work.

    "TikTok is owned by a Chinese company that includes Chinese Communist Party members on its board, and it is required by law to share user data with Beijing," Hawley said in a Thursday statement. "As many of our federal agencies have already recognized, TikTok is a major security risk to the United States, and it has no place on government devices."

    "We should all be very concerned about the threat of Communist China, and I hope my colleagues will join me to implement this ban immediately and protect our national security," Scott said in a statement.

    According to Hawley, it would also be preferable for government officials to refrain from downloading the app on their personal devices. 

    "It'd be better if they didn't do it on their personal phones," Hawley told reporters Tuesday. However, banning federal employees from downloading the app on their personal phones is outside the scope of the bill. "I don't know that we can reach them by legislation,” he admitted.

    However, TikTok has claimed that it does not provide data to the Chinese government and that there is no evidence that the Chinese government has access to the American users’ data.

    "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," a TikTok spokesperson told The Hill Tuesday.

    In March of last year, TikTok declined to testify at a US congressional hearing regarding its relationship with the Chinese government. 

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