Nevada bans TikTok on government devices

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 8:52 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - In a memo sent to state government employees in January, the state of Nevada banned TikTok from government devices. Nevada joins more than half of all states in banning the Chinese social media app.

Also included in the blacklist is Alibaba, which loosely functions as the Chinese version of Amazon; Huawei Technologies, which makes smartphones, among other things, in China; and typing assistant Grammarly, which has no ties to China but is banned because it can lay claim to the intellectual property of whoever uses it as a browser extension.

Governor Joe Lombardo’s office sent an official statement to FOX5, saying:

But many people are wondering: how big is that risk? It depends on who’s being asked.

“I don’t think TikTok, except for the link with China, is any more unique with our private data compared to a lot of other social media apps,” Greg Moody, director of UNLV’s cybersecurity program, said Tuesday.

Moody says much of the fear around TikTok stems from a law passed by the Chinese government six years ago that made many Americans nervous.

“Any Chinese company or Chinese national, when requested by the intelligence service of China, has to supply data,” Moody explained. “And they don’t have to disclose this data once it’s asked for.”

This law is the basis for the debate in Carson City -- and Capitol Hill -- over whether TikTok is acting as a Chinese government agent.

But that private data, which, in TikTok’s case, is generally agreed to be things like online behavior and algorithms developed from searches, is well out of China’s reach.

“That has, for several years, been stored on U.S. soil,” Moody said.

It would be difficult for the Chinese government to jump through all the legal hoops in America to get that data for themselves, Moody explained. Besides, he said, China has already proven it can hack into much more secure systems and view sensitive information. He pointed out several big data breaches involving China in the recent past.

“There are lots of other ways to get data on people,” he said. “And they actively work on that. They have a whole intelligence unit that’s tasked to find intelligence on American officials. And they’re already doing that.”

Ultimately, it’s email that Moody says is the real key for China to get dirt on American officials, not social media.

“You’re not going to likely find blackmail material on TikTok unless someone is sharing rather stupid data,” he said.

Last week, TikTok’s CEO testified before Congress about storage for American users’ data.