Chinese-owned TikTok, which is wildly popular in the United States with more than 85 million users, faces an uncertain future in the country where it has made serious inroads following the increasing wave of bans on federal and state devices.
In the latest development, the social media platform which is owned by Chinese-based company ByteDance has been banned from devices used by federal employees in the $1.7 trillion year-end omnibus bill, which is setting out federal funding for the next year.
The main concern is that by downloading the app, the US government workers are giving China potential access to their devices that the government in Beijing could use to collect data on American citizens.
The latest development is the decision by Republicans and Democrats in Congress and underscores how political winds are turning against the platform given worries about the US rival China.
Previously, a host of state governments decided to keep TikTok off devices held by state government workers, raising questions about its future.
Despite the introduction of such a ban in Congress last week, however, it appears unlikely that these might lead to further bans on the social media platform on private devices.
The founder and managing principal at cybersecurity firm Data Defenders, Cyrus Walker, believes that, at least for the time being, this will not have much of an impact on the accessibility to individual consumers because no direct threat to individual users has yet been recognized.
However, it could lead private companies to demand that their employees keep the app off work phones given the wider conversation about privacy and security concerns with the app sparked by the bans on TikTok on devices used by federal and state workers.
Walker believes that corporations, particularly larger ones, might follow the suit due to the threat of corporate espionage that could take place at a larger level.
Expressing disappointment with US states banning the app on government devices, TikTok spokesperson denied that the social media platform shares information with the Chinese Communist Party, accusing the US of jumping on the bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded, politically charged falsehoods about TikTok.