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Jacobs: No Tik Tok On State Devices

Tik Tok dances may be fun, but at least one state Senator doesn’t want the popular app being downloaded on state-provided devices.

State Sen. Chris Jacobs, R-Buffalo, recently introduced S.8600 in the Senate to add a new subdivision in the state’s Technology Law to prohibit the download and use of TikTok or any successor application developed by ByteDance on any state-issued electronic device.

Jacobs’ bill has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee.

TikTok is a short-form video app that has been downloaded more than 1.5 billion times in the Apple App store and Google Play. The app has been referred to as a lip-syncing app similar to Vine, a short-form video app that was once offered by Twitter, that allows users to make short music videos. Dancing and other movement-based activities are popular on the app.

Jacobs is concerned that downloading TikTok gives the People’s Republic of China access to the data TikTok collects, including a user’s IP address, location, browsing and search history, phone applications, file systems and everything a user types.

“The PRC’s authority to access to the data collected by TikTok stems from the fact that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is located in Beijing, China, where companies are obligated to work with the PRC in intelligence collection efforts,” Jacobs wrote in his legislative justification. “In addition to this obligation to comply with a regime that actively seeks to expand its data collecting power, TikTok has a demonstrated history of untrustworthiness. This history includes TikTok’s censoring in the United States, refusal to testify in Congress, as well as several corporate board members that are also members of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Earlier this year, Reuters reported that several U.S. agencies that deal with national security and intelligence issues had banned employees from using the app in part because of a 2017 Chinese law that requires companies operating in China to cooperate with the government on national intelligence matters.

The U.S. Navy banned the app, followed by Republican Senator Josh Hawley calling for a blanket ban on the app for all federal employees.

ByteDance responded to Hawley’s request by saying that U.S. data is stored in the United States and that China does not jurisdiction over content that is not in China.

Collins is not convinced by the company’s statements on privacy nor the company’s changes to its privacy policies.

“Due to the obvious untrustworthiness of TikTok and the nature of the data that it collects, it is more than reasonable to conclude that this application should not downloaded or used on government issued electronic device,” Collins wrote. “This was logic used when federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon, the State Department and the Transportation Security Administration took action to combat this silent invasion of American privacy, and banned the use of TikTok by their employees and service members on government issued devices. This bill would follow the lead of the federal government by banning all state employees from using this application on state-issued devices. This is legislation is sensible and common sense step towards bringing our State closer to fulfilling its duty to protect New Yorkers.”

Parents concerned about their child’s privacy on TikTok can take the following steps, according to Common Sense Media. To make a TikTok account private, go to the profile page and select the three-dot icon in the top-right corner. Select Privacy and Safety. There, toggle the switch for “Private Account.” Users can also select who can send them comments and direct messages, and who can do a duet with them. Using the “Friends” setting or turning those features off completely limits contact with strangers.

TikTok offers a few parental controls in its Digital Wellbeing section. Parents can enable the features on a child’s phone and protect it with a passcode. Or, TikTok gives parents the option of using their own TikTok account to control their child’s phone from the parent’s device using the app’s Family Pairing feature. Those who choose Family Pairing will need to download the app on their phone.

There are also screen time management functions and a restricted mode that blocks mature content.

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