Citing heightened concerns about online safety and data collection, the Orange County Board of Supervisors stated Tuesday that county employees will no longer be able to download, view or use the social media platform TikTok on government-issued devices. .
The panelists unanimously approved the ban, proposed jointly by Vice President Andrew Do and Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, as a way to mitigate security risks associated with the app.
A similar ban was enforced last month at the federal level, following guidance provided by the “No TikTok on Government Devices” Act, passed by Congress in December.
“The particular TikTok platform has vulnerabilities that exist within it, and the parent company can exploit those vulnerabilities in ways that put users and our national security at risk,” Barnes said.
Barnes explained how the app’s owner, ByteDance Ltd., collects users’ personal data, creates profiles based on an individual’s viewing history, habits, and even geographic locations, and can tailor or manipulate the content they display. sees that person, a potentially worrying trend, he said, given the company’s relationship with the Chinese government.
“We have recognized the inherent risk of the way the TikTok social media platform operates and how (its) content can be misused by the parent company or the Chinese Communist Party against the best intentions of the American people,” Barnes said. .
Tuesday’s decision modifies the county’s current information technology and social media usage policies to apply the ban to the company’s cell phones, laptops and desktop computers used by more than 18,000 Orange County employees. , except when necessary for law enforcement purposes.
IT practices employed at the Sheriff’s Department allow for the blocking of new uploads, though it’s unclear whether devices already installed with TikTok will be automatically disabled following the policy change.
Do, who was unable to vote on the proposed amendment Tuesday due to illness, issued a joint statement with Barnes describing the move as an important step to protect county data and information from possible government hacking. Chinese.
“We are taking proactive steps to ensure Orange County follows security best practices to protect our county and the residents we serve,” Do, who represents District 1, said in a statement.
The statement described how the Chinese government, under the guise of national security, could legally compel domestic companies like ByteDance to hand over private user data to authorities without a court order. That information could then be used “to identify, arrest, and persecute political opponents, religious groups, ethnic minorities, and social activists.”
Supervisor Katrina Foley, whose 5th District includes Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, said Tuesday that officials have become increasingly aware of the risks that platforms like TikTok present to government agencies.
“Our national security adviser is increasingly concerned about the threat of data about people living in the United States being collected and possibly used by the Chinese government,” he said. “(And here), each department uses social networks to share information with the public. Today, it is better to err on the side of caution.”
Barnes said that while the ban passed Tuesday affects only devices owned and operated by the county, he hopes to raise awareness among residents about the need to be careful with their private data and use of social media.
“I also encourage the public, particularly parents, to consider the potential for compromised data and negative influence on users and take steps to protect their personal devices,” he said.